Abu Dujanah and his Death-Scarf

thus the two parties were poised for battle and the leaders aroused their own men to fight, the quraysh by summoning the memory of badr and its victims, the muslims by remembering god and the promise of his victory. muhammad raised his sword in front of his companions and invited them to come forward to get it provided they could fulfill one condition. a number of them rushed to him but were sent back. abu dujanah simak ibn kharashah, brother of banu sa'idah, rose and asked, "what is the provision, 0 prophet of god?" the prophet answered, "that you continue to strike the enemy with it until it breaks." abu dujanah was a very brave man who had a red scarf which, as everybody knew, signaled that he was bent on fighting until victory or death. as he drew this scarf and wrapped it around his head, the prophet gave him the sword. he took it and started to dance in joy between two rows of fighters, as he was wont to do before entering into battle. when muhammad saw him perform this dance, he said that "such would be hateful to god except under the circumstances."

abu `amir, slave of `amr ibn sayfi al awsi, was the first to start the hostilities. previously, he had moved from madinah to makkah in order to arouse the quraysh to fight muhammad. he had not witnessed the battle of badr. anxious not to miss this time, he came to uhud with a retinue of soldiers consisting of fifteen al aws tribesmen and a number of slaves from makkah. once he claimed that he could persuade his fellow tribesmen who converted to islam to fight with quraysh against muhammad. putting this large claim to the test, he called to them and announced his identity. but his tribesmen replied with curses and damnations. infuriated at the result, he approached muslim ranks and started to fight. to the left, `ikrimah ibn abu jahl with a company of slaves attempted to penetrate muslim lines at the flank. the muslims met them with stones and caused them to withdraw. at this moment, hamzah ibn `abd al muttalib gave the war cry, "die! die!" and sprang forward into the thick of the quraysh lines. talhah ibn abu talhah, carrier of the makkan flag, sprang forward asking the muslims to duel with him. 'ali ibn abu talib advanced forth to fight with him. the encounter was soon over as 'ali struck his enemy a single fatal stroke. exalted, the prophet and the muslims yelled, "god is great," and advanced for the general charge. abu dujanah, with the prophet's sword in hand and its head wrapped in the "scarf of death," as he called it, killed everyone with whom he fought. he saw one makkan fighting a muslim with his fingernails. as he prepared to deal with him, he discovered that it was a woman and that it was hind, daughter of `utbah. he immediately withdrew and saved the prophet's sword from ever touching a woman's blood.

the martyrdom of hamzah

the quraysh forces advanced ferociously, and the general melee between the disproportionately balanced forces began. the larger army was motivated by resentment and a consuming will to vengeance; the smaller by its faith in god and his religion and the will to defend its homeland as well as its interests. those who sought revenge surpassed them in number and equipment. they were heartened and cheered by the women, each of whom promised one soldier or another her most precious possessions if he could only avenge for her previous loss of her father or brother, husband, or relative. hamzah ibn `abd al muttalib was one of the greatest and most courageous of arab heroes. at badr, it was he who killed `utbah, father of hind, as well as her brother and a number of other close relatives of hers. true to his reputation, hamzah distinguished himself in battle on the day of uhud. he killed artat ibn `abd shurahbil, siba` ibn `abd al `uzza al ghubshani, and a number of others. his sword seemed invincible. hind had promised wahshi, the abyssinian client of jubayr, a great amount of wealth should he succeed in killing hamzah. to encourage him further, jubayr ibn mut'am, his master whose uncle was also killed at badr, promised wahshi his freedom if he succeeded. the story following was later told by wahshi : "i set out among others, planning to fight with my javelin as all abyssinians do, for i hardly ever miss my objective with it. when the great encounter took place, i looked around for hamzah and caught him with my eyes. i saw him right in the middle of the melee, standing out as clearly as a black camel in the herd and felling everybody around him with his sword. i swung my javelin and, making sure it was well balanced, i threw it at him and it fell right on him hitting him in the abdomen and piercing him through. i left my javelin and its victim pinned down under it until he died. later on i came to him and pulled my javelin away and returned then to the camp and fought no longer. i had killed him in order to win my liberty, and that i had now achieved. when i returned to makkah, my manumission was officially recognized."

those in the muslim camp fell into two categories: the sincere muslims and the munafiqun. the prototype of the latter was quzman, who joined islam but never really believed in it. when the muslim army left madinah, quzman refused to march. the next morning the women of banu zafar began to shame him for his cowardice. "0 quzman," they said to him, "have you lost your sense of shame or have you become a woman to stay behind while all the men are out fighting?" incensed, quzman went to his home, put on his armour, bow, arrows and sword, and set out to join the prophet's army. he was known to be a brave soul. when he arrived on the scene, he found the prophet ordering the ranks of the muslim soldiers. he went straight through to the first row and was the first to throw himself into the battle. he shot his arrows and pierced many an enemy's chest. toward the end of the day, he was still determined to fall fighting, and he continued to fight until he did. he killed seven of the enemy in one short hour in addition to all the others whom he had killed with his arrows. passing by him and finding him about to die, abu al ghaydaq congratulated him on his achievement of martyrdom. quzman answered, "0 abu `amir, i have not really fought for the faith. i have fought only in order to prevent quraysh from invading our territory and violating our homes and properties. by god, i fought only in order to protect my people and my land. without those i would never have done it."

the other group were the true believers. they were not over seven hundred strong and they faced three thousand of the enemy. what has so far been said concerning the deeds of hamzah and abu dujanah reveals an idea of the power of muslim morale. this was a power before which the soldiers of quraysh reeled like worms, despite all the courage and heroism for which they were famous throughout arabia. their flag was carried so proudly that none would allow it to lay fallen; and as soon as it fell, another soldier would raise it anew. when 'ali ibn abu talib killed its carrier, talhah ibn abu talhah, it was immediately raised again by `uthman ibn abu talhah. and when `uthman fell at the hands of hamzah, it was raised again by abu sa'd ibn abu talhah. at the moment he raised the makkan flag he shouted at the muslims, "do you pretend that your martyrs are in paradise and ours in hell? by god, you lie! if anyone of you truly believes such a story, let him come forward and fight with me." his challenge attracted ali [according to another version, it was sa'd ibn abu waqqas that was so attracted.] who killed him on the spot. the banu `abd al dar kept on carrying the makkan flag until they lost nine men. the last of them was su'ab, the abyssinian slave of banu `abd al dar, whose right hand carrying the flag was struck by the aforementioned quzman. su'ab seized the flag and raised it high with the left arm. quzman struck it with his sword again. having lost both arms, su'ab now seized the flag and pressed it to his chest with whatever was left of his arms and even bent his back to support it while saying "0 banu `abd al dar, have i not done my duty?" either quzman or sa'd ibn abu waqqas killed him. when all the party in charge of the makkan flag were decimated, the makkan associationists realized their defeat and began to run for their lives. even their women were now exposed, and the statue which they had brought with them on camel back to bless them had now fallen to the ground and was broken.

muslim victory on the morning of uhud

actually, the victory the muslims achieved on that morning was a genuine war miracle. some may attribute it to the sound judgment of muhammad in placing the archers on the mountain side so that they could hit the enemy cavalry before they could reach the muslim lines while at the same time protecting the rear of all muslim forces. muhammad's good judgment is undoubtedly true. but it is equally true that when six hundred muslims threw themselves against an enemy force five times greater than theirs, they could not possibly have done so and achieved such bravery unless their deeds sprang from t heir candid faith in the righteousness of their own cause. whoever believes in the cause of truth is not bothered by the material preponderance of any power, however great, and his will would not be shaken even if all the forces of evil rallied against him. sincere faith in god almighty is the greatest power, the greatest idea. it is invincible. as long as its subject remains sincere and loyal to it, there is no doubt that sincere faith must obtain all it wills. therefore, quraysh was shattered and defeated with all its three thousand fighters by the six hundred muslims. that is why the women of quraysh were about to be taken captive. when the muslims followed up their enemies far from the battlefield, those who remained fell upon the large booty left behind. indeed, many muslims were thus drawn away from pursuing the defeated enemy.

the muslims' preoccupation with booty

the archers whom muhammad had commanded not to leave the mountainside even to rescue the prophet and his companions from what might seem to them to be certain death watched the battle from their height, and saw the defeated enemy running away and the pursuing muslims seizing the booty. this whetted their appetites. for a moment, they argued with one another in seeking to convince themselves that no purpose would be served by keeping their position now that god had defeated their enemy. as they watched their fellow muslims gather the booty, they strongly felt like joining them. when a wiser voice reminded them that the prophet had commanded them not to leave their position even for rescuing the muslims from certain death, they rationalized that he had not intended for them to remain in their positions that long, certainly not after the defeat of the enemy. `abdullah ibn jubayr advised them not to violate the prophet's commandment whatever the circumstances. the majority did not heed his advice, however, but descended to the plain. ten men only kept their ground. this provided khalid ibn al walid, commander of the makkan cavalry, the golden opportunity to attack and seize the mountainside where the archers were. he eliminated the remainder of the muslim archers and occupied the mountainside. the other muslims were not aware of what was happening, preoccupied as they were in gathering everything of value on the field. after he occupied the mountainside, ibn al walid signaled to the quraysh to attack again and he advanced upon the muslims from the rear. the defeated makkans rallied to his call, turned about and resumed the fighting. the muslims dropped the booty they carried, drew their swords and defended themselves. but their victory was lost. their ranks were disorderly and their unity was in shreds. quraysh took a heavy toll of muslim lives. earlier, the muslims were fighting by the command of god and out of their faith in him and in victory; now they fought in order to save their own lives from certain death and humiliation. earlier, the muslims were fighting in a united and orderly manner, under a strong and resolute leadership; now they fought without order or leadership. so great was the disorder that some may have struck their own fellows. finally, when somebody raised the cry that muhammad was killed, chaos reined supreme, muslim morale plunged to the bottom and muslim soldiers fought sporadically and purposelessly. this chaos was responsible for their killing of husayl ibn jabir abu hudhayfah by mistake, as everyone sought to save his own skin by taking flight except such men as 'ali ibn abu talib whom god had guided and protected.