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6. The Battle of Badr

The second year after the emigration was the year that the fasting of the month of Ramadan was prescribed upon all Muslims. However, it was famous for another reason, for it was in this year, the fifteenth year of the Islamic message, that the great turning point of Islam arrived. This was the year of the great battle of Badr (see section 6.5). Due to it's tremendous importance in the history of the Islamic message, this day was named in the Qur'an "Yawm al-Furqaan" (loosely translated: "The day of discerning and decisiveness").


For fifteen years, the Muslims had born the abuse and torture of Quraish and their nobles. They had lost their wealth, land and homes, and had endured great hardship. Many had died. Even after the emigration, Quraish insisted on following them with their abuse and every so often they would send small detachments to fight with them. These detachments would go so far as to enter the outskirts of the city and their farms.


In the third month of the next lunar year, the month of Safar (twelve months after the emigration), Muhammad (pbuh) received news of a caravan headed towards Quraish that was being lead by Abu-Sufyan, one of the staunchest of the nobles of Quraish in animosity to the Muslims. Muhammad (pbuh) decided to take this caravan and reimburse the Muslims part of their wealth which had been wrongfully taken from them when they fled Makkah.


As he traveled towards Makkah, Abu-Sufyan received word of Muhammad's intentions and this news alarmed him greatly. Abu-Sufyan sent hurried word to Quraish appealing for their assistance and urging their swift response. When Quraish received this plea they immediately summoned all of their nobles, all of the tribes of Makkah, and a number of the surrounding tribes and readied the provisions of war. Not a single one of the nobles of Quraish stayed behind except for Abu-Lahab who sent Al-Aasi ibn Hisham ibn Al-Mugheera in his place (upon the condition that Abu-Lahab pay off his debt of 4000 dirhams). This was the day the nobles had been waiting for. This was the day when they would finally put this upstart nation in it's place and would finally stamp out Muhammad and his followers. They would make an example of them so severe that all of the tribes of Arabia would be terrified of them for generations to come. The army of Quraish then hastened to cut off the Muslims before they reached the caravan.


Muhammad (pbuh) received word of Quraish's army, their numbers and their weapons. His men had agreed to set out with him for a much more innocuous matter than this and were not prepared for all-out war. For this reason, Muhammad (pbuh) collected them before him and informed them of the army of Quraish. He then sought their council and asked them all for their opinions.


When Muhammad (pbuh) asked for their council, he was in reality seeking the response of the Ansar. They had pledged to protect him and his followers with their life and their wealth so long as they resided within their city. However, he was now asking them to leave the city and wage war in another land. He wished to see how they would respond.


The first to respond to Muhammad's query were the Muhajereen. They pledged to follow him to the ends of the earth and to die Muslims. Muhammad (pbuh) then posed the question again, and again the Muhajereen responded well. After Muhammad (pbuh) asked a third time, Saad ibn Muath, one of the leaders of the tribes of Al-Madinah stood up and said:


"Perhaps your question is directed at us O messenger of Allah? Perhaps you feel that the Ansar believe that they are only obligated to assist you within the boundaries of the city? I hereby speak in the name of the Ansar when I say and answer on their behalf: Journey were you will, and extend the hand of friendship to whom you will, and reject whom you will, and take from our wealth what you will, and give us what you will. Indeed, that which you take from us is more beloved to us than that which you give us. Whatever you may decree in a matter, our decree proceeds from yours. By Allah, were you to march with us to the lakes of Ghamadan (in Yemen), we would march with you!. By Allah, were you to traverse this sea, we would traverse it with you!."


Another man from the Ansar then arose and said similar words. When Muhammad (pbuh) heard these words his face lit up and he was greatly pleased. He then commanded them:


"March forth [then] and receive glad tidings. For Allah has promised me one of two (victory or Heaven). By Allah, it is as if I am looking at their places of death [as I speak]"


Muhammad's army consisted of 313 men, two horses, and seventy camels. Two or three men would take turns riding these camels, and no preference in this matter would be given to an officer or a soldier. The flag was given to Musab ibn Omair, and the banners of the Muhajereen and the Ansar were given to Ali ibn abi Talib and Saad ibn Muath respectively. The flag was white and the two banners were black. The army of Quraish consisted of between nine hundred and one thousand men.


While the two armies were advancing upon one-another, Abu-Sufyan diverted his caravan away from the beaten path and down towards the shoreline. When he managed to take his caravan out of the face of danger he sent a messenger to the army of Quraish to return home for the caravan was safe. However, the nobles of Quraish insisted on fighting the Muslims and refused to return without having taught them a lesson.


When the two armies met, Muhammad (pbuh) lined his men up and prepared them for war. He then entered into his tent and supplicated to God, prayed to Him, and beseeched Him to grant them victory over their enemy. For if this handful of men were to be slaughtered this day, the message of God would vanish from the face of the earth for all time. Muhammad (pbuh) continued to supplicate to God, reverence His name and beseech Him for His assistance in great earnest and in all humbleness and submissiveness for some time. When Abu Bakr saw his state he attempted to console and comfort him as best he could. Finally, Muhammad (pbuh) withdrew from the tent and addressed his men. He encouraged them to fight, to fear God and to seek His great reward. The fighting then began.


It was the custom in that time that such battles would begin with celebrated representatives from each party fencing individually with one another until one party's representative killed the other's. Quraish sent three skilled swordsmen from among their nobles to represent them. They were, Utba ibn Rabeea, his brother Shaiba, and his son Al-Waleed. Muhammad (pbuh) met them with Obaida ibn Al-Harith (himself the son of Muhammad's grandfather), his uncle Hamza, and his cousin Ali. The Muslim party made short work of the representatives of Quraish and killed them quickly. However, Obaidah was injured severely by his opponent and died later on.


Both armies began to edge closer and closer to one-another until Muhammad (pbuh) finally gave the command: "Rise up to a Paradise the width of which is the heavens and the earth."


When Muhammad (pbuh) gave this command Omair ibn Al-Hamam asked: "A Paradise the width of which is the heavens and the earth?" Muhammad replied: "Yes!" Then Omair said: "Bakhin, Bakhin (a term of satisfaction) O messenger of Allah." Muhammad asked him: "What drove you to say Bakhin, Bakhin?" He replied: "Nothing O Messenger of Allah except that I had hoped to be of it's inhabitants." Muhammad replied: "Then, you are of it's inhabitants."

Obaidah took some dates out of his sack and began to put them in his mouth but stopped suddenly and said: "If I am given life enough to eat these dates, indeed I would have lived [too] long." He then tossed them aside and fought until he was killed.


Both parties fought long and hard until the Muslims gained the upper hand and defeated Quraish. Seventy men of Quraish were killed and seventy were taken as prisoners. Of the Muslims six men of the Muhajereen were killed and eight men from the Ansar. All of the greatest nobles of Quraish died on that day at the hands of the Muslims. The following verse of the Qur'an was then revealed:


"And Allah has granted you victory in Badr, battle of when you were weak. So fear Allah that you might [learn to] be thankful [to Him]" (Qur'an 3:123)


After he had buried the dead of Quraish, Muhammad (pbuh) turned to their grave and said: "O inhabitants of [this grave], we have found what our Lord promised us to be true, so have you found what your Lord promised you to be true?."


When the Muslims returned home Muhammad (pbuh) ordered them to treat the prisoners well. Abu Aziz narrated:


"I was [among the prisoners] in a group of the Ansar when they brought me back from Badr. Whenever they would bring me my dinner they would give me the bread [a delicacy] and suffice with dates for themselves out of respect for the command of the Messenger of Allah (to do good by the prisoners). Whenever a man among [my guards] would come into the possession of a piece of bread he would pass it over to me. Out of bashfulness I would pass it back to him, but he would return it to me and refuse to eat it."


Among the prisoners were the relatives of Muhammad (pbuh) such as his uncle Al-Abbas, his cousin Akeel, and others. However, he insisted that they not be given preferential treatment and be treated just like any of the other prisoners.


Muhammad (pbuh) did not kill the prisoners, rather, he forgave them and allowed them to be ransomed back to their people. He ransomed them back according to their wealth. Those who did not have anything were forgiven and set free without a ransom. Others were set free with the condition that they teach ten of the Ansar how to read and write. Zaid ibn Thabit* was one of the Muslims who learned to read and write in this way.


During the battle of Badr, the Jews of the tribe of Banu-Qainuqa broke their treaty with Muhammad (pbuh) and fought with the pagans of Quraish against him. Muhammad (pbuh) later surrounded them and ordered them to leave the city. He allowed them to go wherever they pleased and to carry whatever belongings they wished with them, however they were no longer welcome in Al-Madinah. They then left and migrated to Northern Arabia (al-Sham)


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