the defeat at badr was an ignominy which the quraishites pride could not leave unavenged. revenge was, therefore, the catchword all over makkah. the makkans even forbade lamenting over their murdered people, or ransoming their captives at badr battle lest the muslims should realize the grave degree of sadness and feeling of tragedy they were experiencing.
in the wake of badr event, quraish was in common consent and started fresh preparations to launch an overall war against the muslims in order to restore their blemished prestige and wounded pride. the most enthusiastic polytheists desiring to go into a new battle were ‘ikrimah bin abi jahl, safwan bin omaiyah, abu sufyan bin harb, and ‘abdullah bin abi rabi‘a. they were determined to crush the commonwealth of islam once and for all. emissaries were sent to all the tribes to make common cause against the rising faith. as a consequence of this, they managed to enlist the support of two well-known tribes kinana and tihamah besides some desert bedouins ahabish. it was also decided that the profits of the escaped caravan headed by abu sufyan, which amounted to 1000 camels and 50 thousand dinars, should be devoted for providing equipment to the army. the noble qur’ân has alluded to this decision of theirs in the following words:
"verily, those who disbelieve spend their wealth to hinder (men) from the path of allâh, and so will they continue to spend it; but in the end it will become an anguish for them. then they will be overcomed." [al-qur'an 8:36]
they also devised other ways of recruitment including hiring poets to entice the tribes into fighting the muslims. safwan bin omaiyah allured abu ‘azza, the poet to work in this context in return for riches after the war or supporting his daughters if killed. incidentally, this poet was prisoner of war (in the context of the badr events) in the hands of the muslims and the prophet [pbuh] was gracious enough to release him unransomed provided he would not engage in fight against him.
abu sufyan nursed the most grudge against muslims because he had lost most of his supplies in as-sawiq invasion, let alone the heavy economic losses that quraish had sustained in the aftermath of the events that featured the platoon of zaid bin harithah.
in the light of these successive failures, quraish precipitated and accelerated their preparations for a decisive battle with the muslims. at the turn of the year everything was ready for the move. the makkans also decided to take their women along with them for they might arouse them to fight manfully. thus a contingent of three thousand pitched warriors, of whom seven hundred were mailed soldiers and two hundred well-mounted[za'd al-ma'ad 2/92; fath al-bari 7/346] cavalry with three thousand camels and fifteen women marched towards madinah. the general leader was abu sufyan bin harb, the cavalry under the leadership of khalid bin al-waleed assisted by ‘ikrimah bin abi jahl, and bani ‘abd ad-dar were entrusted with the flag.
old deep-seated feelings of hatred, with heart-based grudge enveloped the whole process foreshadowing bitter, bloody revenge-instigated fighting between the two parties.
meanwhile al-‘abbas bin ‘abdul muttalib, was closely watching the military movements and preparations for war, and these were all included in an urgent message sent by him to prophet [pbuh] who received it while he was in qubâ’ mosque. ubai bin ka‘b read the letter to the prophet [pbuh], who asked him to be reticent with respect to its serious contents. he hurried back to madinah, convened a meeting with the helpers and emigrants and conducted with them serious consultations as regards the measures to be taken.
the whole of madinah was put on the alert and all men were heavily armed even during prayer in anticipation of any emergency. a group of helpers volunteered to guard the prophet [pbuh] and kept watchful eye all night at his door, amongst whom there were sa‘d bin mu‘adh, usaid bin hudair and sa‘d bin ‘ubadah. lest they should be taken by surprise, armed groups of the madinese began to police the entrances and roads leading to the city. to reconnoitre the movements of the polytheists, muslim platoons began to patrol the routes for any probable enemy raids.
the makkan army, on the other hand, continued the march along the usual western road. on reaching al-abwâ’, hind bint ‘utbah, abu sufyan’s wife, suggested that they dig up the grave of the prophet [pbuh]’s mother, but the leaders of the army refused to do so for fear of the consequent results. the army then followed wadi al-‘aqeeq and turned right to encamp themselves at a place called ‘ainain near uhud mountain. that was on friday, 6th shawwal, 3 a.h.
the scouting party of madinah conveyed the news of the makkan army step by step. then the messenger of allâh [pbuh] held a head military consultation assembly to exchange views about the situation. he told them about a dream he had. he said: "by allâh, i have dreamt of — i implore allâh to be a dream of bounty — cows slaughtered and that there was a groove at the pointed top of my sword, and that i had inserted my hand into an immune armour."
the interpretation of ‘the cows’ was that some of his men were killed, and ‘the groove at the pointed top of his sword’ was that a member of his house would be hurt. as for ‘the armour’ it was madinah. then he offered a suggestion that his companions should not go out of madinah and that they should encamp themselves within the city. he was of the opinion that the enemies should be left in the open to exhaust themselves and thus the muslims would not risk a battle. but if they thought of attacking madinah, muslim men would be ready to fight them at the mouths of lanes; whereas muslim-women would help from over the house roofs." ‘abdullah bin ubai bin salul — the head of the hypocrites; who attended the meeting as a chief of al-khazraj — supported the prophet [pbuh]’s plan.
as a matter of fact his agreement was not based on the righteousness of the plan but rather on personal benefit. he did not want to fight. on the contrary he secretly aimed at being far away from fight. however it was allâh’s will that he should be disclosed and disgraced in public — for the first time. it was his will that the curtain which concealed their disbelief behind should be uncovered and pulled down. allâh’s will enabled the muslims to recognize the reality of those snakes that were creeping within their garments and inside the sleeves of their clothes. thanks to allâh they recognized them in one of the most critical times of their lives.
some of the best honourable companions, who had missed al-jihâd in badr invasion, suggested that the prophet [pbuh] should go out of madinah and urged him to accept their point of view. one of them said: "o, messenger of allâh [pbuh], for long time we have been looking forward to this day; and we have implored allâh to make such a day draw near. thanks to allâh it is time to fight. so let us go out and fight our enemies lest they should think that we have lost heart and do not dare to fight them." hamza bin abdul muttalib the paternal uncle of the prophet [pbuh], who had already covered the ornaments of his sword with idolaters’ blood in badr battle, was ahead of those enthusiastics who urged him to go out and meet the disbelievers. he said to the prophet [pbuh]: "by allâh, who has sent the book down unto you, i will not taste food till i fight them with my sword outside madinah."[as-seerah al-halabiyah 2/14]
after weighing carefull the pros and cons of the issue, it was decided that the enemy should be resisted outside the city at uhud.
ascending the pulpit at the friday congregational prayer, the prophet [pbuh] urged the people in his sermon to fight courageously. "if you remain steadfast," he said "you will be helped by the power of the all- mighty." then he commanded his men to make ready for the battle. most of them rejoiced greatly.
he led the afternoon prayer with crowds of people. then he entered his house accompanied by his two friends abu bakr and ‘umar. they helped him dress and wear his headcloth. he armed himself and wore two armours one over the other. he wore his sword and went out to meet people.
people were waiting for him impatiently. sa‘d bin mu‘adh and usaid bin hudair blamed people for pressing on the prophet [pbuh]. they said: "you have forced the messenger of allâh [pbuh] to fight the enemy outside madinah." therefore they were determined to leave the whole matter to the prophet [pbuh], and blamed themselves for what they had already done. when the prophet [pbuh] came out, they said: "o messenger of allâh, we should have not disagreed with you. so, you are free to do what you desire. if you prefer to stay inside madinah we will stay with you. upon this the messenger of allâh [pbuh] remarked: "it does not become a prophet that once he had put on armour, he should take it off, until allâh has decided between him and the enemy." [quoted by ahmad, nasa'i, hakim and ibn ishaq]
the prophet [pbuh] divided his army into three battalions:
- al-muhajireen battalion, under the command of mus‘ab bin ‘umair al-‘abdari.
- al-ansari-aws battalion was commanded by usaid bin hudair.
- al-ansari-khazraj battalion with al-hubab bin al-mundhir to lead it.
the army consisted of a thousand fighters; a hundred of them armoured; another fifty horsemen. [al-huda 2,92] he appointed ibn umm maktum to lead the people in prayer in madinah. departure was announced and the army moved northwards with the two sa‘ds, who were armoured, running in front of the army.
upon passing along al-wada‘ mountain trail he saw a well-armed battalion, which were detached from the main body of the army. the prophet [pbuh] inquired who they were and he was told that they were jews and were allies of al-khazraj. they told him that they wanted to contribute to the fight against the idolaters. "have they embraced islam?" the prophet [pbuh] asked. "no," they said. so he refused admitting them and said that he would not seek the assistance of disbelievers against the idolaters.
as soon as he reached a location called ash-shaikhan, he paraded his army. he dismissed those whom he considered to be disabled or too young to stand the fight. among them were ‘abdullah bin ‘umar bin al-khattab. usama bin zaid; usaid bin zaheer, zaid bin thabit, zaid bin arqam. ‘araba bin aws, ‘amr bin hazm, abu sa‘eed al-khudri, zaid bin haritha al-ansari, sa‘d bin habba and al-barâ’ bin ‘azib, sahih al-bukhari pointed out that he had shared in the fight that day.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] allowed both rafi‘ bin khadaij and samura bin jundub to join the army — though they were too young. the former proved to be skillful at shooting arrows; the latter wrestled the former and beat him. the admission of rafi‘ made samura say: "i am stronger than him, i can overcome him." when the prophet [pbuh] heard this saying he ordered them to wrestle. they did. samura won so he was also admitted.
as night fell upon them there, they performed both the sunset and the evening prayers and spent the night there as well. fifty people were chosen to guard the camp and go round it. muhammad bin maslama al-ansari, the hero of the brigade of ka‘b bin al-ashraf, was in charge of the guards. whereas dhakwan bin ‘abd qais undertook the responsibility of guarding the prophet [pbuh], in particular.
at the end of the night and just before it was daybreak, the prophet [pbuh] moved and when he got to ash-shawt he observed the dawn prayer. there he was close enough to the enemy that they could see one another. it was there that ‘abdullah bin ubai — the hypocrite — rebelled against the muslims. one-third of the army withdrew with him — that is to say three hundred fighters. he said, "we do not know why we shall kill ourselves." he claimed that his withdrawal was no more than showing protest against the messenger of allâh [pbuh] who had already refused his opinion and accepted that of the others.
undoubtedly that was not the real cause of his detachment. if it had been the refusal of his opinion — as the hypocrite claimed — there would have no sense whatsoever for his joining the prophetic army. if it had been so, he would have refused to go out with the army from the very beginning of the march. as a matter of fact the real purpose of this rebellion, withdrawal and detachment — at this delicate and awkward position and time — was to produce bewilderment, confusion of mind, and disorder in the muslims army who were within the sight and hear range of the enemy who were also looking forward to seeing more and more dissension on the side of the muslims, like themselves. they also aimed at breaking the high morale of the believers. that would accelerate — in their opinion — the breakdown and consequently the death of muhammad, his faithful companions and islam as a whole. the way would then be clear for the reclaim of presidency, which that hypocrite had lost on the advent of islam into madinah.
short of allâh’s care, the hypocrite’s plot would have been successful. banu haritha of al-aws and banu salama of al-khazraj were partially impressed by the hypocrite’s behaviour. both of them were overwhelmed by confusion and they had almost started to withdraw, but allâh’s care saved them from that disgrace. about their incident allâh says:
"when two parties from among you were about to lose their heart, but allâh was their wali (supporter and protector). and in allâh should the believers put their trust." [al-qur'an 3:122]
‘abdullah bin haram — the father of jabir bin ‘abdullah — attempted to stop their withdrawal. he reminded the hypocrites of their duty at this delicate and awkward condition, but in vain. he followed them, reproached them and urged them to go back saying: "come and fight in the way of allâh or at least be defenders." they said: "if we had known that you would really fight we would have not gone back." having despaired of them, he addressed them saying: "may allâh cast you away, you enemies of allâh. allâh will certainly suffice his prophet." allâh says about those hypocrites:
"and that he might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: ‘come, fight in the way of allâh or (at least) defend yourselves.’ they said: ‘had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.’ they were that day, nearer to disbelief than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. and allâh has full knowledge of what they conceal." [al-qur'an 3:167]
with the remainder of fighters, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] moved towards the enemy. after the rebellion and withdrawal of the hypocrites, the number of soldiers was reduced to seven hundred only.
the camp of idolaters was situated in such a place that the many roads leading to uhud were almost blocked by them. so the messenger of allâh [pbuh] said to his men: "which man of you can lead us to where the people (i.e. the idolaters) are, along a short track that does not pass by them?" abu khaithama said: "o messenger of allâh [pbuh], i am the man you need." then he chose a short track that led to uhud passing by harrah bani harithah and their farms, leaving the idolaters’ army westwards.
on their way they passed by ha’it (i.e. the field) of marba‘ bin qaizi, who was a blind hypocrite. when marba‘ felt and realized that they were the prophetic army, he started throwing earth at their faces, so they rushed to kill him, but the prophet [pbuh] said:
"do not kill him. he is blind in heart and eyes."
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] went along till climbed down the hillock of uhud at the slope of the valley. he camped there with his army facing madinah while their backs were to the hills of uhud mountain. so the army of the enemy stood a barrier between the muslims and madinah.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] mobilized his army. he arranged them into two rows to prepare them for fight. he selected fifty skillful archers that formed a squad and made them under the command of ‘abdullah bin jubair bin an-nu‘man al-ansari al-awsi al-badri. he issued his orders to them to stay where they were — on a mountain(side) at the south bank of qanat al-wadi (i.e. a canal of the valley), south east of muslims camp at about one hundred and fifty metres from the islamic army. later on this mountain was called the mountain of archers.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] clarified the mission of this squad in words he directed to them. he said to their leader: "drive off the horses from us by means of arrows, lest they should attack us from behind (the rear). whether we win the battle or lose it, stand steadily in your position and mind that we are not attacked from your side."[ibn hisham 2/65,66]
"defend our backs! if you see us slain. do not come to assist us; and if you see gaining grounds, do not share us."[fath al-bari 7/350]
in a version by al-bukhâri the prophet [pbuh] said:
"if you see us snatched into pieces by birds, do not leave this position of yours till i send for you. and if you see that we have defeated the enemy and trodden on them do not desert your position till i send for you."[sahih al-bukhari, the book of jihad 1/426]
with the assignment of this squad and locating it on the mountainside and the issuance of those strict military orders, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] blocked the only groove that might lead the idolaters stealthily to the rear of muslim ranks and might even enable them to encircle them in an encompassment procedure.
the assignments of posts and responsibilities for the rest of the army were performed by the prophet [pbuh] as follows: on the right wing, he appointed al-mundhir bin ‘amr. on the left he appointed az-zubair bin al-‘awwam, and made al-miqdad bin al-aswad his assistant and supporter. az-zubair’s function was to standfast in the face of khalid bin al-waleed’s horsemen. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] selected the top and the most courageous group to be in the vanguard of the army. they were notable for their readiness, alertness and bravery and estimated to be equal to thousands of men.
it was a wise and carefully-laid plan which revealed the genius of military leadership that the prophet [pbuh] possessed. no other leader could have drawn a more accurate or wise plan. although he approached the site later than the enemy, he managed to occupy better positions. he made the rocky mountainside to function as shield for the army’s rear and right flank. he was able, by blocking the only vulnerable gap on the side, to provide additional maximum protection for the rear as well as the left wing. for fear of possible defeat, and to deter the muslims from fleeing, in which case they would fall easy prisoners in the hands of the enemy, he chose a high place for encampment. moreover a strategic site of this sort would surely inflict heavy losses on the polytheists if they thought of approaching or occupying his positions. in a further step, he reduced the enemy to a narrow scope of choice when they were cornered for encampment in geographically low positions that would avail them nothing of the benefits of any possible victory; at the same time they would not be able to escape the pursuit of the muslims in case victory sided with the latter. to make up for the quantitative shortage in fighting personnel, he chose a picked body of fighters to stand at the front.
the army of the prophet [pbuh] was thus fully mobilized on shawwal 7th, 3 a.h.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] forbade the muslims to start the fight without having an order from him. he, then, wore two armours — a front armour and a back one. he urged his companions to fight and spurred them to show stamina and steadfastness at fight. he started to implant the spirit of boldness and bravery in them. to wage and inflame his companions and in order to standfast in the fight, he took a sharp sword, held it in his hand and called out unto his companions and said: "who is ready to take this sword and give it its proper due?" many a man set out to take it. some of them were ‘ali bin abi talib, az-zubair bin al-‘awwam and ‘umar bin al-khattab. but it was granted to none. abu dujana sammak bin kharsha inquired: "o messenger of allâh, what is its price?" the prophet [pbuh] said: "it is to strike the enemy’s faces with it till it was bent." so abu dujana said: "o messenger of allâh i will take it for that price." and he was given the sword.
abu dujana was a man of courage who used to swagger at war. he had a red band which he wore round his head. whenever he was head-banded everybody knew that he was determined to fight to death. therefore as soon as abu dujana took the prophet [pbuh]’s sword, he banded his head and started strutting amongst the fighters.
watching him doing that, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] said: "this is a sort of walking that allâh detests except in such a situation."
the idolaters applied the rows system in the mobilization of their army. the general leadership of the army was entrusted to abu sufyan sakhr bin harb, who would be in the centre-position of the army. khalid bin al-waleed was on the right wing; whereas ‘ikrima, the son of abu jahl was on the left. safwan bin omaiya was in charge of infantry men. the archers were under the command of ‘abdullah bin abi rabi‘a.
as for the standard, a squad of bani ‘abd ad-dar were in charge to bear it. thus was the distribution of the posts of the army ever since ‘abd munaf had already assigned them. this assignment had been inherited from qusai bin kilab — as we have previously alluded to in an early phase of this book. no one had the right to compete them with it. it was consistent with their traditions that they had inherited from their ancestors.
abu sufyan, the general leader, reminded his men — the standard bearers — of what had happened to quraish on badr day (i.e. battle) when their standard bearer, an-nadr bin al-harith, was captured. in an attempt to wage their anger and enmity to the muslims he said: "o bani ‘abd ad-dar! you have been assigned bearers of our standard and you know that the standard is the first thing that the enemy attacks. should it fall, we fall down too. therefore, i say either you guarantee its safety or leave it for us, and we will certainly suffice you that task."
abu sufyan’s attempt seemed to be fruitful. for his speech made bani ‘abd ad-dar so extremely angry that they threatened him and almost attacked him for that. addressing him, they said: "you want us to deliver you the custodianship of the standard? tomorrow when we fight them, you will witness our deeds." as a matter of fact, they fought bravely and stoodfast in defence of the standard till they were all killed.
a little time before the break out of the battle, quraish made some endeavours to sow the seeds of discord and dispute among the muslims. first, abu sufyan sent to the helpers a message saying: "leave us alone to fight our cousins and do not interfere. if you stand aside, we will not fight you; for fighting you is not a target of ours." but that attempt proved to be fruitless. what could such a wicked scheme do to those whose faith was as solid and firm as mountains?! the helpers reply was undoubtedly disappointing and contrary to abu sufyan’s expectations.
the zero-hour was due. the two parties drew nearer. undespaired by the first failure, quraish made another attempt, for the same purport but now with the assistance of a traitor called abu ‘amir al-fasiq, whose name was ‘abd ‘amr bin saifi. he was called a monk, but the messenger of allâh [pbuh] nicknamed him al-fâsiq (i.e. perverted transgressor; dissolute). as he was the head of aws in al-jahiliya, he could not tolerate islam when it came. he announced his enmity to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] in public. he left madinah for the quraishites in makkah to rally them against the messenger of allâh [pbuh] and to urge them to start the fight against him. he claimed that he was obeyed and esteemed by his people and that as soon as they saw him come they would join him immediately.
so he was the first one among the mob and slaves of quraish to show resistance. he called out unto his people, recognized them and said: "o kinfolk of aws! i am abu ‘amir." their reply was "no eyes of anybody shall be consoled by viewing you, o fâsiq." hearing them say so, he said: "my people must have been afflicted by an evil after my departure." therefore when the fight broke out, he fought them fiercely and pelted his people with stones, as well.
that was how the second attempt of quraish to sow the seeds of discord among people of faith. this, however, revealed the great terror of the quraishites cast in their hearts in spite of their supremacy in number and equipment.
quraishi-women participated in the battle led by the wife of abu sufyan, hind bint ‘utbah. they wandered among the rows of the idolaters, tapped on tambourines, encouraged men to fight, inflamed the emotions of heroes, lancers, swordsmen and brave fighters. at one time they addressed the standard-bearers:
"o bani ‘abd ad-dar!
o home defenders,
strike with your sharp swords …"
and at another time they would wage people’s zeal by singing:
"if you fight (bravely), we will embrace
and unfold mats to welcome you.
but if you flee from the battlefield, we leave you,
desert you and no more love you."
the two parties approached and grew very close to each another. the phases of fight started. the first combatant was the standard-bearer, talha bin abi talha al-‘abdari, who was the most distinguished idolater. he was one of the bravest men of quraish fighters. muslims nicknamed him ‘the ram of the battalion.’ he came forth riding a camel and challenged the muslims to a single combat. people refrained from fighting him due to his bravery; but az-zubair bin al-‘awwam advanced for the fight. he did not give the ‘ram’ any chance to fight but fell on him like a lion on his camel’s back, pulled him down to the ground and slaughtered him with his sword.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] who was watching that wonderful incident exclaimed: allâhu akbar that is ‘allâh is the greatest’ and the muslims exclaimed allâhu akbar too. he praised az-zubair when he said:
"every prophet has a disciple and az-zubair is a disciple of mine."[as-seerah al-halaiyah 2/18]
soon the general engagement ensued and the fight of the two parties grew fierce everywhere on the battlefield. the strain of the fight was centred round the carriers of the standard. after the death of their leader talha bin abi talha, banu ‘abd ad-dar alternated the mission successively. talha’s brother, ‘uthman, ran forward and seized the standard which lay by the lifeless body of his brother, chanting: "the standard-bearer has the right to dye its shaft in blood, till it be beaten in his hand." hamzah bin ‘abdul muttalib attacked and dealt him a blow that cut his arm and shoulder and went down to his navel to uncover his lung.
the standard was raised up again by abu sa‘d bin abi talha; but sa‘d bin abi waqqas shot him with a deadly arrow that hit him at his throat and made his tongue hang out breathing his last.
in another version it was narrated that abu sa‘d lifted the standard up and challenged the muslims to fight him. ‘ali bin abi talib went forth. they exchanged two blows. then ‘ali gave him a terminal blow that finished him off.
musafi‘ bin talha bin abi talha then hoisted the standard, but was soon shot with an arrow by ‘asim bin thabit bin abi al-aqlah. his brother kilab bin talha bin abi talha followed him picked the banner and lifted it up; but az-zubair bin al-‘awwam attacked him and managed to kill him. their brother al-jallas bin talha bin abi talha lifted the banner up but talha bin ‘ubaidu-allâh stabbed him to death. they also said that it was ‘asim bin thabit who managed to deal a terminal blow to him.
all those six people killed round and in defence of the standard, belonged to one house, the house of abi talha ‘abdullah bin ‘uthman bin ‘abd ad-dar. another man from bani ‘abd ad-dar, called artat bin sharhabeel carried the standard but he also was killed by ‘ali bin abi talib. others said it was hamzah who killed him not ‘ali.
then it was shuraih bin qariz who was killed by quzman — he was a hypocrite who fought for prestige only, not in defence of islam. abu zaid ‘amr bin ‘abd munaf al-‘abdari lifted the standard up but he was killed by quzman too. a son of sharhabeel bin hashim al-‘abdari hoisted it again and was also killed by quzman.
so we see that ten fighters of bani ‘abd ad-dar — the standard-bearers — were annihilated. seeing that none of ‘abd ad-dars survived to carry the standard, a slave of theirs — called sawab — came to raise it. the slave showed more admirable sorts of bravery and steadfastness than his former masters. sawab, the slave went on fighting till his hand was cut off. so he knelt down and embraced the banner, leant it against his chest and neck lest it should fall down to the ground. he remained fighting steadily and steadfastly till he was killed. in the meanwhile he did not stop saying: "o allâh, have i been excused?" after the death of the slave sawab, the standard fell down to the ground, and remained there as there was no one to carry it.
whilst the brunt of the battle centred around the standard, bitter fighting was going on everywhere on the battlefield. the spirit of faith overwhelmed the muslims’ ranks; so they rushed among the idolaters as if they had been an outbreak of a destructive flood that overflowed and knocked down all dams and barriers standing in its way "i seek death, i seek death." that was their announced motto on uhud day.
abu dujana, recognized by the red band worn round his head, came forth, fighting with the sword of the messenger of allâh [pbuh]. he was determined to pay its price at all costs. he killed all the idolaters that stood on his way splitting and dispersing their ranks. az-zubair bin al-‘awwam said:
"i felt angry and discouraged when the messenger of allâh [pbuh] refused to give me the sword but gave it to abu dujana. i said to myself: ‘i am his paternal cousin — the cousin of his aunt safiya — a quraishite, besides, i was the first who demanded it and yet he favoured him to me. by allâh, i will watch how he will use it.’ so i followed him, i saw him take out his red band and wear it round his head. seeing him like that, the helpers said, ‘abu dujana had worn the band of death.’ then he set out saying loudly:
‘i am the one whom my intimate friend made covenant with, when we were under the palm-trees on the mountain side.
the covenant that we made was that i should not fight at the rear.
but fight at the front heroically with the sword of allâh and his messenger.’
no one stood the way of abu dujana but was killed. there was a man among the idolaters whose only target was to finish off the wounded muslims. during the fight abu dujana drew near that man; so i implored allâh that they might engage in combat. they in fact did and exchanged two sword-strokes. the idolater struck abu dujana, but he escaped it and it pierced into his leather shield. the idolater’s sword now stuck to it, abu dujana struck him with the sword and killed him. ibn hisham 2/68,69] into the thick of the battle, he rushed to kill a person who was inciting the enemy to fight the muslims. upon this the person shrieked and lo! it was a woman. abu dujana spared her saying: ‘i respect the prophet [pbuh]’s sword too much to use it on a woman.’ the woman was hind bint ‘utbah."
describing the same incident, az-zubair bin al-‘awwam said: "i saw abu dujana raising a sword over the parting part of hind bint ‘utba’s head then he moved it off. i said to myself: ‘allâh and his messenger know best.’ (i.e. know why he acted like that). [bn hisham 2/69]"
hamzah bin ‘abdul muttalib displayed wonderful feats of gallantry against the overwhelming odds which stood unparalled and created consternation and confusion in the disbelieving hosts. heroes dispersed off his way as if they had been tree-leaves blown away by strong wind. in addition to his effective contribution to the annihilation of the idolaters who stood in defence of the standard, he was even of much greater effect at fighting against men of bravery and distinguished horsemen. it was allâh’s will that he be murdered when he was at the top. he was not killed in a face-to-face fight on the battlefield — in the normal way by which heroes die — but rather assassinated in the dead-dark as was the custom of killing generous and noble men that were impossible to kill in an honourable fight.
hamzah’s assassin, wahshi bin harb, described how he killed hamzah. he said:
"i was a slave working to jubair bin mut‘im, whose paternal uncle tu‘aimah bin ‘adi was injured at badr battle. so when quraish marched to uhud, jubair said to me: ‘if you kill hamzah, the uncle of muhammad, stealthily you shall be manumitted.’ "
"so i marched with the people to uhud." he used to describe himself as, "i am a picaro good at spearing." "so when the two parties fought, i set out seeking hamzah. i saw him amidst people fighting. he was like a white and black striped camel, striking severely with his sword and no one could stand on his way. by allâh! when i was getting ready and trying to seize the fit opportunity to spear him, hiding sometimes behind a tree or a rock hoping that he might draw nearer and be within range — at that moment i caught sight of siba‘ bin ‘abd al-‘uzza going closer towards him. when hamzah observed him, he said: ‘come on! o son of the ‘clitoris-cutter.’ — for his mother used to be a circumciser. then he struck one strong stroke that could hardly miss his head."
wahshi said: "then i balanced my spear and shook it till i was content with it, then i speared him and it went down into his stomach and issued out between his legs. he attempted moving towards me but he was overcome by his wound. i left him there with the spear in his entrails till he died. then i came to him, pulled out my spear and returned to the encampment place. i stayed there and did not go out, for he was the only one i sought. i only killed him to free myself. so as soon as i got back to makkah, i became a free man." [ibn hisham 2/69-72; sahih al-bukhari 2/583]
although the death of asad (lion) of allâh and his messenger — hamzah bin ‘abdul muttalib — was a great loss, the muslims maintained full control over the whole situation on the battlefield. on that day, abu bakr, ‘umar bin al-khattab, ‘ali bin abi talib, az-zubair bin al-‘awwam, mus‘ab bin ‘umair, talha bin ‘ubaidullâh, ‘abdullah bin jahsh, sa‘d bin ar-rabî‘ and anas bin an-nadr and others — all of them fought so fiercely, effectively and efficiently that they broke the strong will of the idolaters and scattered them.
one of the brave adventurers of that day was hanzala al-ghaseel — he was hanzala bin abu ‘amir. abu ‘amir was the very monk that was nicknamed ‘al-fâsiq’ (i.e. the dissolute, evildoer). he is the very one that we have recently mentioned. hanzala, who was newly married, left his wife’s bed for al-jihâd (fight in the cause of allâh). he set out the moment he heard of the call to al-jihâd. when he faced the idolaters on the battlefield, he made his way through their ranks till he reached their leader abu sufyan sakhr bin harb and had almost killed him, if he had not been ordained to be a martyr. for at that moment he was seen by shaddad bin al-aswad who struck him to death.
the archers squad whom the messenger of allâh [pbuh] located on the archers mountain, had the upper hand in administering the war activities to go in favour of the muslim army. the makkan horsemen — commanded by khalid bin al-waleed, supported by abu ‘amir al-fâsiq — had for three times attacked the left wing of the muslim army with the aim of crushing it and then infiltrating into the rear to create a sort of confusion and disorder in the ranks of the muslims and subsequently inflict heavy defeat on them. but thanks to the dexterity and great efforts of the archers, the three assaults were thwarted.[fath al-bari 7/346]
war activities went on and on fierecly with the muslims in full command of the whole military developments until the idolaters finally staggered and retreated, leaving all motives of alleged pride, and affected dignity in oblivion, and their standard trodden by the feet of the fighters with none ever courageous enough to approach it. it seemed as if the three thousand idolaters had been fighting thirty thousand muslims and not merely several hundreds.
ibn ishaq said: "then allâh sent down his help unto the muslims and verified his promise to them. they chased the idolaters and evacuated them from their camp. no doubt it was a certain defeat." in a version by ‘abdullah bin az-zubair that his father had said: "by allâh, i was watching the servants of hind bint ‘utbah and her women friends fleeing with their garments gathered up. no one was there to prevent us from capturing them."[ibn hisham 2/77]
in another version by al-barâ’ bin ‘azib — mentioned in sahih al-bukhâri — he said: "when we fought them, they fled, and their women could be seen fleeing in the mountains with their anklets and legs revealed."[sahih al-bukhari 2/579] the muslims pursued the enemies putting them to sword and collecting the spoils.
while the small army of islam were recording the second absolute and clear victory over the makkans — which was no less in splendour and glory than the first one at badr — the majority of the archers on the mountainside committed a fatal mistake that turned the whole situation upside down, and constituted a source of heavy losses amongst the muslims. it has almost brought about the murder of the prophet [pbuh], and left a very bad impression on the fame and dignity they deservedly earned at badr battle.
we have already spoken about the positive orders given to the archers to hold on to their position whatever the course of the main engagement. in spite of those strict orders, and their leader’s — ‘abdullah bin jubair — warning, forty archers deserted their posts, enticed by the too soon roar of victory as well as worldly avarice for the spoils of war.[sahih al-bukhari 1/426] the others, however, nine in number and ‘abdullah, their leader, decided to abide by the prophet [pbuh]’s order and stay where they were until they were given leave or killed to the last. consequently the cleft was left inadequately defended .
the shrewd khalid bin al-waleed seized this golden opportunity to turn swiftly round to the rear of the muslim army and encompass them. exterminating ibn jubair and his group, they fell promptly upon the rear of the muslims and his horsemen uttered a shout that signalled the new military developments. the polytheists returned once again to counterattack the muslims. an idolist woman — called ‘umra bint ‘alqama al-harithiyah — rushed to the lying-on-earth standard, picked it up and hoisted it. the idolaters gathered together around the standard and called out unto one another till they encircled the muslims and stoodfast to fight again.
the muslims consequently got entrapped between two millstones.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] was then among a small group of fighters — nine in number at the rear of the army[sahih muslim 2/107], watching the engagement and braving the muslim fighters. khalid and his men took him by utter surprise, and obliged him to follow either of two options:
- to flee for his life and abandon his army to its doomed end, or
- to take action at the risk of his life, rally the ranks of the muslims again and work their way through the hills of uhud towards the encompassed army.
the genius of the messenger of allâh [pbuh], his peerless and matchless courage made him opt for the second course. he raised his voice calling out unto his companions: "slaves of allâh." he did that though he knew that his loud voice would be heard by the idolaters before it was heard by the muslims. he called out unto them risking his life in this delicate situation.
the idolaters, indeed, recognized him and reached his position even before the other muslims could do so.
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.
as those groups of muslims were receiving the blows of the idolaters and resisting instantly, the fight flared up around the messenger of allâh [pbuh], who had only nine people around him. we have already mentioned that when the idolaters started their encompassment there were only nine persons around the messenger of allâh [pbuh]; and that as soon as he called out unto the muslims: "come on! i am the messenger of allâh [pbuh]," the idolaters heard his voice and recognized him. so they turned back and attacked him with all their power before any of his companions ran to his aid.
a violent raging struggle broke out between the nine muslims and the idolaters during which peerless sort of love, self-sacrifice, bravery and heroism were revealed.
muslim, on the authority of anas bin malik narrated that the messenger of allâh [pbuh] along with seven helpers and two emigrants, was confined to a trap when the idolaters attacked him. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] then said: " he who pushes back those idolaters, will be housed in paradise." or "he will be my companion in paradise." one of the helpers stepped forward and fought the idolaters in defence of the prophet [pbuh] till he was killed. then they attacked the messenger [pbuh] again. the same process was repeated again and again till all the seven helpers were killed. then the messenger of allâh [pbuh] said to his two quraishite companions: "we have not done justice to our companions."[sahih muslim 2/107]
the last of those seven helpers was ‘amara bin yazeed bin as-sakan, who kept on fighting till his wounds neutralized him and he fell dead.[ibn hisham 2/81]
after the fall of ibn sakan, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] remained alone with only those two quraishites. in a version by abu ‘uthman — authorized in as-sahihain— he said: "at that time, there were none with the prophet [pbuh] except talha bin ‘ubaidullâh and sa‘d bin abi waqqas.[sahih al-bukhari 1/527, 2/581] that was the most awkward and dangerous hour for the prophet [pbuh], but it was a golden opportunity for the idolaters who promptly took advantage of it. they concentrated their attack on the prophet [pbuh] and looked forward to killing him.
‘utbah bin abi waqqas pelted him with stones. one of the stones fell on his face. his lower right incisor ruba‘iya (i.e. the tooth that is between a canine and a front tooth) was injured. his lower lip was wounded. he was also attacked by ‘abdullah bin shihab az-zuhri who cleaved his forehead. ‘abdullah bin qami’a (qami’a means ‘a humiliated woman’), who was an obstinate strong horseman, struck him violently on his shoulder with his sword; and that stroke hurt the messenger of allâh [pbuh] for over a month — though it was not strong enough to break his two armours. he dealt a heavy blow on his cheek. it was so strong that two rings of his iron-ringed helmet penetrated into his holy cheek. "take this stroke from me, i am ibn qami’a." he said while striking the messenger with his sword. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] replied — while he was wiping the blood flowing on his face: "i implore allâh to humiliate you."[fath al-bari 7/373, 366] (i.e. aqma’aka allâh). in al-bukhâri it is stated his incisor broke, his head was cleaved, and that he started wiping the blood off it and saying: "(i wonder) how can people who cut the face of their prophet [pbuh] and break the incisor of his — he who calls them to worship allâh. how can such people thrive or be successful?" about that incident, allâh, glory is to him, sent down a qur’ânic verse saying:
"not for you (o muhammad [pbuh] but for allâh) is the decision; whether he turns in mercy to (pardons) them or punishes them; verily, they are the zâlimûn (polytheists, disobedients, and wrong-doers)." [al-qur'an 3:128] [sahih al-bukhari 2/582; sahih muslim 2/108]
at-tabarani states that the prophet [pbuh] said: "allâh’s wrath is great on those who besmear the face of his messenger," observed silence for a short while and then resumed saying:
"o allâh, forgive my people for they have no knowledge." [fath al-bari 7/373]
in sahih muslim it is stated that the messenger of allâh [pbuh] said:
"my lord, forgive my people for they have no knowledge." [sahih muslim 2/108]
in ash-shifa — a book by ‘ayad al-qadi — it is related that the prophet [pbuh] said:
"o allâh, guide my people for they have no knowledge." [ash-shifa 1/81]
it is quite certain that killing the prophet [pbuh] was their primary aim, but the two quraishites — sa‘d bin abi waqqas and talha bin ‘ubaidullâh, who showed great and rare courage and fought so fiercely and boldly that — though they were only two
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