Guarding the Highways of Najd
After the Battle of Badr, the movements of the Quraysh around Madinah decreased and they found an alternate route for trade which reached Syria through Najd. It became necessary for Muslims to keep an eye on these regions as well.
In the month of Rabi al-Awwal, 3rd Hijri, information that the Banu Tha'labah and the Banu Muharib intended to carry out an attack was received. The Prophet (sws) went to the area with a few hundred men. When they heard that the Muslims had arrived, the tribes went up to the hills and did not fight. It was at this time that an interesting incident occurred. It had started to rain and the Mujahidin's clothes, including those of the Prophet (sws) became wet. The Prophet (sws) hung his clothes on a tree and lay down to take rest. In the meanwhile, a disbeliever, Da'thawr came upon him and, drawing out his sword, asked: "Who would save you from me today?" The Prophet (sws) answered: "Allah!" The attacker froze in such terror that his sword fell from his hands. The Prophet (sws) picked up the sword and asked Da'thawr who would save him now from him? He answered that none could save him and apologized. After that, he recited the words of shahadah and became a Muslim. The greatness of the Prophet (sws)'s bravery, his confidence in God and his belief is demonstrated very clearly through this incident.
In the month of Jumadi al-Thani, a contingent of 100 soldiers under the leadership of Zayd ibn Harithah (rt), at al-Qirdah in the same region came across a convoy of the Quraysh, carrying gold and silver. Frightened by the Muslims, the latter left this wealth and ran away. The Muslims seized it and took it with them to Madinah.
A New Plan of the Quraysh
After their defeat in the Battle of Badr, the Quraysh decided that the profit earned by the returning trade convoy from Syria would not be divided among people but, instead be used for preparations for the next war.
Abu Sufyan attempted to politically convince both tribes of the Ansars of Madinah, the Aws and the Khazrj, to remain neutral and let the Quraysh deal with those of their relatives who had migrated from Makkah to Madinah. A large number of members of these tribes had accepted Islam and promised to remain loyal to the Prophet (sws), so their non-Muslim members were not so influential that they could convince the others to forego their support to the Prophet (sws). Hence, Abu Sufyan's efforts remained unsuccessful.
Preparations to attack Madinah
The leadership of the Quraysh realized that their strength would be insufficient to defeat the Muslims and therefore they obtained services of some influential people. In the Battle of Badr, the Prophet (sws) had taken pity on a man called Abu 'Uzzah and released him on the condition that he would not take part in any more wars. He was a poet. Ṣafwan ibn Umayyah convinced him to go to the tribes settled in Tihamah and incite them so that they would be ready to cooperate with the Quraysh. In return for this, Ṣafwan would take all of his responsibilities upon his shoulders. Similarly, a man called Musafi' ibn 'Abd Munaf was sent to gain cooperation from the Banu Kananah. These people were successful in enlisting the support of the Banu Kananah, the Banu Malik, the people of Tihamah and Ahabish. Abu Sufyan obtained support from Abu 'Amir, the leader of Aws, who was living in Makkah and decided to use his influence in the next war.
Equipped fully, the army of the Quraysh and their allies numbered 3,000 individuals, including 700 armoured soldiers and 200 on horseback. Accompanying them were the daughters and other women of the Quraysh leaders killed during Badr, so that they could urge their men to bravery. Three Companions who were guarding the road to Makkah gave the information of the arrangements and arrival of the Quraysh to the Prophet (sws). As the Quraysh army descended upon Dhu al-Halifah, the Muslims stood guard in the city and three honourable Ansars stood at the doors of Masjid e Nabawi.
The Dream of the Prophet (sws) and Consultations with the Companions
Just as the Prophet (sws) had been shown the incidents of the Battle of Badr prior to their taking place in his dreams, given the glad tidings of one group overcoming the other and the numbers of the Quraysh being lesser, similarly he saw a dream related to the Battle of Uhud. Dreams require interpretation. In the Battle of Badr, the numbers of the Quraysh were thrice as many, but in reality, their strength was far less and Muslims had cut them like vegetables: this was the reality which the Prophet (sws) had seen in his dream.
Different narrations of the dream exist. According to Ibn Hisham, the Prophet (sws) spoke about having a good dream. He had seen that a cow was being slaughtered, a jag had occurred in his sword and he had pushed his arm inside an armour. According to Ibn Sa'd, he saw that he was wearing a strong armour, the edge of the sword had a jag and a cow was being slaughtered behind which was a sheep. He interpreted the armour to be Madinah and the sheep to be the army of the Quraysh. The cow was the army of the Muslims and the jag in the sword meant harm to the person of the Prophet (sws). In our opinion, the coming events were reflected in this dream. The Prophet (sws) was given signs that this time the fight would be tough, hence it was not to be taken lightly. The believers would be martyred in large numbers and much blood would flow. The defense of the Prophet (sws) would be inadequate and the enemy would be successful in damaging his person. The enemy would be saved from any great loss but would not be able to enter Madinah. The Prophet (sws) would himself enter Madinah with his Companions.
In the light of these indications from his dream, the Prophet (sws) consulted his Companions to develop a strategy to counter the enemy attack. This process had the benefit that the collective views of the army would be forthcoming; useful advice would be given which could be used to prepare a strategy. Additionally, the strength of people who were in a minority and expressed views different from others would also be known. At such occasions, the Prophet (sws) used to put the issue in front of the Companions but would not express his own opinion. When he put the matter in front of his Companions and sought their advice before the Battle of Badr, the people who did not want to face the Quraysh became obvious. But after listening to all arguments, he gave the order to march to Badr and made preparations accordingly.
Using the same approach, the Prophet (sws) informed the Companions of the arrival of the Quraysh and gave an opportunity to them to discuss the war strategy, but did not give his own opinion. If he had done so, which Muslim would have dared to present a different view and thus endanger his faith? In our view, the narratives that state that the Prophet (sws) wished to fight while remaining within Madinah but was forced by some Companions who suggested that they face the enemy out of the city are based on misunderstandings.
When the Prophet (sws) placed the matter before his Companions, 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the leader of the hypocrites advised on fighting while remaining within Madinah. He said: "Do not venture out of the city. Whenever we have done so, we have faced losses, but when the enemy has tried to enter the city, it has faced loss because the men have fought from the front and women and children can pelt stones from the rooftops." The opinion of the sincere Companions was different. Some Companions whose desire for martyrdom had not been fulfilled in the Battle of Badr said: "O Prophet of Allah! Take us toward the enemy. If we remain in the city, they will gain courage and believe that we are weak and demonstrating cowardice. We have been looking forward to this day and now Allah has brought them close to us and reduced our travel distance." One Companion said: "No one dared to enter our city during the times of jahiliyyah: who would dare to do so in the times of Islam?" One Ansar said: "O Prophet (sws)! If we do not fight our enemy in the valleys of our city, where would we fight him?" Nu'aym ibn Malik (rta) of Bani Salim said: "O Prophet of Allah! Do not deprive us of Paradise. By the Being who holds my soul in His captivity, I shall surely go to Paradise." Someone asked: "How?" He answered: "Because I hold Allah and His Prophet dear to me and it is not my way to run away from the battlefield." Hamzah (rta) said: "By the Being who revealed His Book upon you, we will fight with the enemy on the field." Muslims talked about their desire for martyrdom in their speeches and declared that remaining in siege within the city and fighting from this situation would be a barrier to the fulfillment of this desire. By assessing the numbers of hypocrites and those sincere to their faith, the Prophet (sws) decided to confront the enemy outside the city.
Departure towards Uhud
It was Friday. During the sermon, the Prophet (sws) asked the people to make piety and fear of God their way of life; be patient and persevere during the war and obey orders. He asked them to be ready to march towards Uhud, where the enemy had already taken positions, after the prayer of Asr. He went inside his house, wore two armours according to the indications in his dream and took up his weapons. When he came out, some people, thinking that perhaps they had insisted too much and forced him to face the enemy outside the city, said that if he himself wished to confront the enemy from within the city, he should do so. The Prophet (sws) replied that when a messenger donned an armour, he did not take it off. It was not appropriate to his status.
The Prophet (sws) used a less well known path to Uhud with his 1,000 strong army of soldiers as they started after 'Asr. They saw a group of men on their way and upon inquiry, the Prophet (sws) was informed that they were the Jewish allies of 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy. The Prophet (sws) did not allow them to join the army. It must be remembered that the Covenant of Madinah included the clause that religious wars would be fought on the basis of the force of the signatories and that Jews would not be included without permission from the Prophet (sws). At night, the Prophet (sws) rested in a place called Al-Shawt and Muhammad ibn Maslamah (rta) and his party kept guard.
The next morning, when the Prophet (sws) gave marching orders, 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy separated himself along with 300 soldiers and refused to join the Muslims. The influential people among the Muslims tried their best to retain him but he refused to change his decision. It was also suggested to him that if he did not wish to take part in the fight, he could just occupy the defense check post, but he refused, saying that when his opinion was not considered when developing the war strategy, why should he be part of implementing a wrong decision? 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn Haram (rta) of the Banu Salamah advised these people not to leave their Prophet (sws) and their nation in the difficult times when they needed help and assistance, but they would not pay heed. At this, 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr (rta) said: "Enemies of Allah! May Allah destroy you! The Prophet does not need people like you." According to some narratives, the Ansars asked for permission to convince the allied Jews but the Prophet (sws) refused.
This act of 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy created a lowering of morale in the army and the Banu Harithah of the tribe Aws and the Banu Salamah of the tribe Khazraj were encouraged to avoid the war but they saw reason after receiving advice from others. At this stage, the Prophet (sws) gave a speech and explained to people that the faithful did not rely upon their numbers and resources but upon help and support from God. It was quite possible that Allah replace the 300 men who had left with a reinforcement of 3,000 angels. In fact, if they showed steadfastness and if required by a sudden attack from the enemy, God may even send 5,000 instead of 3,000 angels. The Prophet (sws) inspected the army and sent young men who were below the age of 15 and who had joined in their passion for martyrdom, back home. Seven hundred Muslims proceeded, armed with their belief on help from God. The Prophet (sws) kept the Mount of Uhud to the rear right and organized his army lines in a semi circle. There was a hill to the left at some distance where he installed 50 archers and instructed their leader, 'Abdullah ibn Jubayr (rta) to defend the army against attacks from the left and the back and that, whatever situation arose, he was to fulfill his appointed duty and not leave the position until the war ended. He gave commandership of the cavalry to Zubayr ibn al-'Awwam (rta) and that of the un-armoured soldiers to Hamzah ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib(rta). The flag of the tribe Aws was given to Usayd ibn Huḍayr (rta) and that of Khazraj to Hubab ibn Mundhir (rta). The Quraysh lined up their forces on the open field keeping the Mount Uhud to their left. Their foot soldiers were in the centre and soldiers on horseback were to the right and left of the army, with Khalid ibn Walid and 'Ikramah ibn Abi Jahal leading them.
Stages of the War
Four stages of this war were extremely significant.
The First Stage
When the battle began, Abu 'Amir 'Abd 'Amr ibn Sayfi came forward with 50 of his men from the Quraysh. He had convinced the Quraysh that the tribe of Aws were his followers and that, upon seeing him, would come over to their side. With this hope, he stood between the two armies and addressing the Aws, said: "I am your mentor; come and join me." They replied that they welcomed him no more. "O Transgressor! May God never fulfill your desire." Upon hearing this, he said: "My nation has adopted wrong ways after my departure."
The Prophet (sws) raised his sword and asked who would pay the price of this. The Companions asked what would be this price at which the Prophet (sws) answered that it should become bent while fighting the enemy. Abu Dajanah Sammak ibn Kharshah (rta) came forward and said that he would pay this price. After obtaining the sword, he wound a red scarf around his head and began to walk in the field with pride. The Prophet (sws), noting this, said that God did not like such a stride, but that it was a good act at that time because the intent was to impress the enemy.
The Prophet (sws) asked to whom the Quraysh had handed their flag. He was informed that Talhah ibn Abi Talhah of the Banu 'Abd al-Dar had the flag. He said that they, too, would give their flag to the Banu 'Abd al-Dar, called Masab bin Umair (rta) and gave their flag to him. Talhah ibn Abi Talhah gave out the challenge for a single combat and 'Ali (rta) came forward. As they fought, 'Ali (rta) struck such that Talhah's skull was split open. Talhah's brother Usman took up the flag and Hamzah (rta) sent him on his way to Hell. After this, the battle was on.
The Muslims demonstrated great feats of valour and defended every step of the enemy aggressively. God's help was with them. Therefore, they attacked the enemy fiercely and no flag bearer of the Quraysh could put up resistance against them. Eight flag bearers were killed one after the other. Qurayshi women sang martial songs to try and keep up the spirits of their men and awaken their honour but the battle was so fierce that they were forced to retreat. Wherever Abu Dajanah (rta) went, he would wound men. Hamzah's (rta) valour was worth watching. He destroyed lines and lines of the enemy as he advanced. The flag of the Quraysh was in the hands of Artah ibn 'Abd Shurahbil of the Banu 'Abd al-Dar when he was caught and writhed in blood. Turning from him, he called out to a man, Saba' ibn 'Abd al-'Uzza and killed him. After this, a spear thrown by a negro black slave of Jubayr ibn Mut'am struck him in his stomach. He tried to attack the negro but fell down and gave up his life to God. Hamzah (rta) had killed Mut'am's uncle in the Battle of Badr and he had promised the negro that if he killed Hamzah (rta), he would be granted freedom. The negro had carried out this act under this agreement.
When the faithful fought with such passion and energy, the Quraysh retreated and ran from the battlefield. The Muslims began to gather the spoils of war. It seems that this action was premature and that it was conducted without completely destroying the force of the Quraysh as they still had some strength left in them. When the archers who were occupying their posts on the hill saw that the Muslims had started gathering the spoils, they thought that the war had ended and that their duty was over. Their commander, 'Abdullah ibn Jubayr (rta) ordered them to stay at their positions, but they believed these orders to be unnecessary. Their argument was that the war was finished, the Quraysh had left the battlefield and Muslims were considering it an end to the war. Hence the time had come for them to leave their check posts. 'Abdullah ibn Jubayr (rta) said that whatever the situation in the battlefield, whether the Muslims were facing victory or defeat, they were not permitted to leave their positions. Most of the archers did not agree with him and, except for 10-12 people, the others left their posts and joined those who were busy in collecting the booty.
The Second Stage
Khalid ibn Walid (rta) was in charge of the right side of the Quraysh army. He saw an opportunity in this new situation and led his battalion towards the hill. It was not difficult to kill the few archers who were left. The land was now clear for him. The ranks of the Muslims were already in tumult. Khalid ibn Walid (rta) attacked them from behind and surrounded them. This unexpected calamity proved to be a great trial for the Muslims. In the effort to run away from the battlefield, some rushed towards the hill, others to the city. In this state of chaos, people were not even conscious of friend or foe. A Companion, Yaman (rta) appeared and the Muslims attacked him; his son Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman kept on saying that he was his father but they would not listen and martyred him. Every Muslim was courageous and fought the enemy but because of the destruction of the ranks, this courage was of no use. At this stage, the faithful took special precautions to safeguard the Prophet (sws). They surrounded him so that no ill fated person would be able to attack him. The Prophet (sws) made efforts to get the Muslims back into file and called out to them to listen to him and come towards him but no one was in his senses to look right or left. Very few Muslims came to the Prophet (sws) and fought against the enemy with great valour. The Quraysh tried their best to break the circle around the Prophet (sws) but his devoted Companions pushed them back. At one stage, when they faced him in a crowd and pressure built up on his guards, the Prophet (sws) called out: "Who would sacrifice his life for me?" Ziyad ibn Sakan Ansari (rta) arrived with five of his friends and each one of them sacrificed his life for him. When Ziyad, too fell, and was taking his last breath, the Prophet (sws) asked for him to be laid near him. He still had a few breaths left: he laid his head at the feet of the Prophet (sws) and breathed his last.
Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr (rta) stood in front of the Prophet (sws) as a shield and fought very valiantly until he was martyred by Ibn Qummah al-Laythi. At this, the Prophet (sws) called 'Ali (rta) and handed him the flag of the Muhajirin. The Quraysh were making efforts to cause harm to the Prophet (sws). On the attack of one of their groups, he was wounded by a stone thrown by 'Utbah ibn Abi Waqqas; his front teeth were broken, he received a wound on his forehead and he fell down. 'Ali (rta) held his hand, Talhah ibn 'Ubaydullah picked him up and Malik ibn Sanan (rta) sucked his blood. The Prophet (sws) predicted that whoever wished to see a living martyr, he should see Talhah ibn 'Ubaydullah and that whoever had his blood mixed with his own would not be touched by fire. Ibn Qummah shouted at this stage that he had killed the Prophet (sws).
The Qur'an has brought attention to these stages of the war in the following words:
Allah did indeed fulfill His promise to you when ye with His permission were about to annihilate your enemy, until you flinched and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed it after He brought you in sight [of the booty] which you covet. Among you are some that hanker after this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then did He divert you from your foes in order to test you but He forgave you: For Allah is full of grace to those who believe. Behold! you were climbing up the high ground, without even casting a side glance at any one, and the Messenger in your rear was calling you back. There did Allah give you one distress after another by way of requital, to teach you not to grieve for [the booty] that had escaped you and for [the ill] that had befallen you. For Allah is well aware of all that ye do." (3:152-153)
The Muslims obtained what they had wished for, which was victory during the first stage; distress after distress means that their victory at first converted into defeat and then on top of this grief, they were grieved by the rumour of the demise of the Prophet (sws). They were already confronting extremely difficult circumstances and had suffered a heavy loss of life when they became surrounded by the enemy; this rumour struck them suddenly as a great calamity. It spread like wildfire among the Muslims and created despair amongst them. Many Muslims threw down their weapons, finding it useless to fight any more. Some started to think of ways and means to seek amnesty from Abu Sufyan and some saw wisdom in returning to their tribes. But there was a group within whom the desire to defeat the enemy gained renewed energy. They vowed that they would give their lives for the truth for which the Prophet (sws) had sacrificed his own life. Anas ibn Naḍr (rta) was one such Companion who brought back a group of Muslims to stay and fight. He gained martyrdom by fighting with such courage that his body had about 80 wounds and his face was beyond recognition. His sister recognized him by a sign on one of his fingers. In the end, it was this group whose determination was the turning point and changed the fortunes of the war.
The Third Stage
The devotees of the Prophet (sws) who were surrounding him used their bodies as shields. According to narratives, a person from the Ansar, Ka'b ibn Malik (rta) was the first one to recognize the Prophet (sws) in his war attire. He shouted to the Muslims to inform them that the Prophet (sws) was alive and safe and that they should gather around him. This had the desired effect. Abu Talhah Ansari (rta) came and fired so many spears that 2-3 bows were broken in his hands. He covered the Prophet (sws) with his armour so that the spears would strike it. Abu Dajanah used his body as a shield and took the brunt of the spears on his back. When Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas (rta) came, the Prophet gave him his bow and arrow and told him: "My mother and father be sacrificed for you! Keep on firing arrows." 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf received wounds in his legs and became crippled for life. As a result of these actions, the numbers of Muslims fighting swelled, passions were revived with the news of the Prophet (sws) being alive and the pressure of the Quraysh began to ease. The Prophet (sws) moved towards the hill while continuing with his instructions to fire arrows, and reached the valley of Mount Uhud. There, he re-organized the Muslims again and set up his trenches along its slope. Since he was himself wounded, he was taken inside a cave at some height over Uhud, where his wounds were washed. His face had been pierced by the links of his helmet. When Abu 'Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah (rta) removed these from his teeth, two of the teeth also came out.
The Quraysh tried to climb the hill but each time, they were forced to retreat because of stone pelting from the Muslims. The latter had gained superiority by virtue of being at a height and the horseback cavalry of the Quraysh were also useless there. In this situation, the Quraysh gave up their attempts to overpower the Muslims.
At this stage, both sides raised slogans, as recorded in history. Abu Sufyan asked: "Is IbnAbi Kabshah [the Prophet] amongst you?" At this, the Prophet (sws) instructed the Muslims to remain quiet. Then Abu Sufyan asked: "Is Ibn Abi Qahafah [Abu Bakr] among you? Is Ibn al-Khattab ['Umar] amongst you?" When he did not receive any response, he said: "It seems as if everyone is dead." 'Umar could not restrain himself and he said: "O Enemy of Allah! You are a liar. Allah has ensured that you will come to grief." Abu Sufyan shouted: "Glory be to Habal!" At instructions from the Prophet (sws), 'Umar (rta) raised his voice: "Allah's is the highest and most glorious status". Abu Sufyan again raised a slogan in the name of a goddess. "We have 'Uzzah goddess, which you do not have." 'Umar answered:" Allah is our Supporter and your supporter is none." Abu Sufyan said: Today was the day of revenge for Badr. Victory gives a chance to everyone. Today we are even." 'Umar (rta) said:" we are not even. Our martyrs have gone to Paradise and your killed are in Hell." After this, Abu Sufyan called 'Umar (rta) to his side and when he went, asked him: "Upon oath by God, did we kill Mohammed (sws)?" He answered:" By God, you were not able to do so. He is present and is listening to our conversation." At this, Abu Sufyan said: " 'Umar! I consider you more truthful and trustworthy than Ibn Qum'ah" (Ibn Qum'ah had, as explained above, spread the rumour that the Prophet had been killed). Alright then, we shall confront each other again next year the same time in Badr. You will see mutilation of the bodies of some of your killed. But know that I neither give orders for it, nor did I stop it. I was neither happy with it, nor was I unhappy". Saying this, Abu Sufyan gave orders to his army to return to Makkah.
While a fierce battle was being fought in Uhud, some extraordinary incidents took place which are worth mentioning:
1. In the Battle of Badr, a Quraysh leader, Ubayy ibn Khalaf Jumahi had said to the Prophet (sws) that he would kill him and he was training a horse specially for this purpose. The Prophet (sws) had answered: "No. Instead, I will kill you." On the day of Uhud, he came running to the Prophet (sws) on the same horse. When the Muslims tried to stop him, the Prophet (sws) asked them to let him come. As he came near, the Prophet (sws) fired an arrow at him. He was wounded and turned back. Reaching his people, he showed them his wound and they reassured him saying that it was a slight wound. But he kept shouting that Muhammad (sws) had killed him. Later, he died of the same wound. 
2. Mukhayyariq, a Jew from the Banu Tha'labah said to the Jews that they had a covenant with Muhammad (sws) and helping him was their duty. They should go to Uhud to fulfill their obligation. The Jews declined, saying that it was the day of Sabbath and hence they could not participate in any activity. Mukhayyariq said that Sabbath did not place any barrier in such activities. He said this, picked up his war equipment and left for Uhud, where he was killed, while fighting. When the Prophet (sws) came to know, he said that Mukhayyariq was the best among the Jews.
3. One of the men, called Qazman fought with great courage and killed many idolators. When he was mentioned to the Prophet (sws), he said that he was among the people of Hell. When Qazman was wounded, he was brought to a settlement. People praised him, saying that he had shown great feats. He should be receiving predictions of Paradise. Qazman said: "By Allah! I have fought for the glory of my nation. If it had not come to Uhud, I would not have come either." Later, when the pain from his wounds became severe, he committed suicide with his own arrow.
4. After the war, the Banu 'Abd al-Ashhal were searching for their killed when they found 'Amr ibn Thabit Asiram lying among those killed. They were very surprised to see him there as he was an enemy of Islam. He was seriously wounded. He was asked if he came to give support to his nation or whether he was attracted by Islam. He said that he had belief in Allah and the Prophet (sws), accepted Islam and then taken up a sword to defend Islam, until he fell after being wounded. Saying this, he died in the arms of people around him. When the Prophet (sws) was informed, he said that he would enter Paradise. People would say that Asiram was a person who had never said a single prayer but would go to Paradise.
5. 'Amr ibn al-Jamuh was old and crippled. He had four sons all of whom would join the Prophet (sws) in battles. The sons tried to keep their father within their home during Uhud. He came to complain to the Prophet (sws), expressing his desire to go to Paradise in his crippled state. The Prophet (sws) said that he was disabled and that qital was not obligatory for him. He said to his sons that they should not stop him; perhaps God had reserved martyrdom for him. Thus, 'Amr ibn al-Jamuh went to Uhud and was martyred.
The Fourth Stage
When the Quraysh had left the battlefield, the Prophet (sws) descended from the hill, had the Muslim martyrs identified and made arrangements for their burial. He instructed that they should not be taken to the city but buried in the battlefield. Narratives give a figure for the martyred Muslims between 44 and 70 and those killed from the Quraysh as between 14-22.
At this point, addressing the Muslims, the Prophet (sws) said: "after today, the idolaters would not be able to gain victory over us again, to the time when we kiss the rukun (Hajr Aswad)."The Prophet's comment contained the prediction that the Muslims would not face a similar situation which they had in Uhud from the Quraysh until their entry as victors into Makkah.
The Prophet (sws) spent the night in the valley of Uhud. Thoroughly spent after a tiring day, the Muslims slept peacefully, but one of the groups was so fearful of the enemy that at every sound they would worry that the enemy might be attacking again. In the morning, a rumour spread that the Quraysh had realized that it had not been a wise step for them to return to Makkah and that the result of the war was vague. Hence, they were planning another attack. The hypocrites had played an important role is spreading this rumour. They thought that the Muslims would become disheartened and discouraged with this news. But it so happened that the loyals shouted: "Allah is enough for us and he is the greatest Ally" and were ready to fight the idolaters again with reinforced vigour and courage. The Prophet (sws) gave instructions for those who had remained steadfast to follow the enemy. The Muslims started on this new campaign with full energy and passion. The Prophet (sws) set up camp at a place called Hamra al-Asad, eight miles from Madinah and gathered information about the Quraysh. When he was satisfied that they had left for Makkah, he ordered his army to return.
Referring to this stage, the Qur'an says:
Of those who answered the call of Allah and the Messenger, even after being wounded, those who do right and refrain from wrong have a great reward; Men said to them: "A great army is gathering against you." And frightened them: But it [only] increased their Faith: They said: "For us Allah suffices, and He is the best disposer of affairs." And they returned with Grace and bounty from Allah. No harm ever touched them: For they followed the good pleasure of Allah. And Allah is the Lord of bounties unbounded. (3:172-174)
According to Ibn Ishaq, the battle of Uhud took place on a Sunday, 15th Shawwal.
The Battle of Badr was a war that was a deciding factor, distinguishing between truth and falsehood and giving a clear power to the Muslims over the idolaters, obvious to everyone. In contradiction to this, the Battle of Uhud was like the verses of mutashabihat (allegorical verses). In allegorical verses, the reality that is stated is hidden. It is visible to those who can see but it is not shown to others. This is why it is open to speculation, creating a basis for chaos. When an incident is of the nature of an allegory, its wisdom becomes unclear and an ordinary person may not be able to decipher its true meaning. Hence people tend to speculate and spread rumours. The battle of Uhud was a great trial for Muslims. Their losses were so high that they were visible to everyone even without bringing them to attention. Almost every family in Madinah was affected by the battle. It had become difficult to ascertain whether Muslims had been victorious or suffered a defeat. People were unable to identify any benefits or any wisdom gained. In such a situation, while the mature Muslims with strong faith learned the right lessons, a large group having evil in their hearts and desire to create problems found a good opportunity to use it for their propaganda. The wisdom of God required that the circumstances of this battle be used as a tool to teach and train Muslims. Therefore, a detailed and impartial commentary was given in Surah Al-i 'Imran.
Propaganda of the Enemies
The mischief makers made the person of the Prophet (sws) a special target. They also ridiculed the promise of God to help the faithful which had been referred to in Surah al-Anfal after the Battle of Badr. They presented the future of Islam in such an uncertain manner that many people actually became doubtful. Their efforts were focused on creating an environment of mistrust for Muslims.
Those objecting accused the Prophet (sws) of being an authoritarian and not taking advice from others. They said that he had personal ambitions for which he did not refrain from sacrificing the lives and property of his own companions. If he had been a true well wisher of the Muslims, he would have accepted the advice of confronting the enemy while remaining within the confines of Madinah and thus, much blood of the Muslims would not have been lost.
They mocked the idea that Allah was with the faithful and provided help to them. They questioned why the glories of the help which were shown during Badr were not visible during Uhud? What was this help that came some time and disappeared at others? The fact was that fighting a war was a game of resources and strategy. If resources were available and the right strategy was used, victory was gained and if there were any mistakes made in these, defeat would be unavoidable. The faithful too, were governed by this rule. There was no special relationship between them and God. The promise to help Muslims in the Qur'an was merely a ruse to keep them happy.
As this diatribe increased, they started to say that the future of Islam was extremely doubtful. The claim that power was the destiny of Islam was merely a threat. When the Quraysh struggled with some discipline, the Muslims had to face defeat. If the former made additional efforts and gathered more resources, there was no reason why they would not be successful in cutting off Islam from its roots. If Islam was such a truthful religion, why did it face a situation wherein it caused every Muslim household to become a house of mourning?
These were the main objections raised by the mischief makers and they were addressed in detail by the Qur'an. It explained that the Prophet (sws) was not an authoritarian person by nature. In fact, among his qualities was that of treating everyone with compassion, encouragement and good wishes. This is why everyone was gathering around him like moths around a lamp. If he had possessed harshness, or talked against people or treated anyone badly, no one would have wanted to be close to him. How could he wish ill upon any one when he, himself was so fearful of God? He was very well aware of the fact that if he acted with ill will towards his nation, he would have to answer for this on the Day of Judgement. He took each step with the desire to please God. He worked directly under the supervision of God so there was no possibility that any of his actions could be wrong. However, just like other human beings, he was also governed by his destiny; so, if anything was written in his fate, it was not possible for him to escape from it.
As far as help from God was concerned, the Qur'an clarified that help did not mean that if the faithful entered any field, God would send an army of angels to help them out. Help from God was given under certain conditions. For example, that Muslims left for the field with full sincerity and without a desire for any personal gain to serve their faith; that they staked all that they possessed; they did not hesitate in fulfilling their duty; they did not disobey Allah and His instructions; they did not create difference of opinion in orders which were given to them and, desire of worldly possessions did not overtake them in the battlefield but that whatever they did there, they did keeping the Day of Judgement in mind. If they fulfilled these conditions, help from God would be with them. In the early stage of Uhud, they acted accordingly and hence they received divine help and this was why they were able to cause losses to the Quraysh. Later, they allowed their desire for worldly goods to overtake them. Because of this, when they disobeyed the Prophet (sws) and his appointed Commander, God's help was withdrawn from them and they were left to deal with multiple sorrows. Whatever happened had the weaknesses of the Muslims as its cause. In future endeavours, if they were able to overcome their weaknesses, they would find that God's help would be with them.
The promise of the power of Islam was again reiterated. It was explained that there was no change in this promise nor had God developed sympathy with the idolaters that He had begun to give preference to them over Muslims. The faithful were to reform themselves and get rid of the weaknesses which had harmed them. If they corrected their attitude, they would be victorious. Whatever happened in Uhud contained a message for destruction of the idolaters, provided people would not only observe the situation superficially but understand the facts hidden underneath the surface.
Some mischief makers made the large number of the Muslims killed a matter of debate. Their claim was that this was the result of a competition in the open battlefield. It would have been possible to avoid such a loss of life provided their preventive suggestions had been accepted. The people who had separated themselves from the battle before it started were right in what they did. The error was made by the Prophet (sws). The Qur'an answered this by saying that those who were making these objections did not understand that life and death was in the hands of God and the best of strategies could not evade death. If Muslims had enclosed themselves within a fortress, the ones who had to die would have died in any case and the fort would not have been of any use to them. It was not appropriate for men of courage to live with cowardice but the most exalted state of loyalty was to give one's life while performing one's duty. There was no need to pity those who had lost their lives in the way of God, or to express grief. They had attained the glory which was better than all the wealth of the world. The martyrs were enjoying the blessings of their Creator in Paradise and were wishful that their descendants too would follow their footsteps and come to meet them. The critics were grieving for no rhyme or reason.
Commentary on the Weaknesses of the Faithful
The Qur'an unveiled the mistakes which had been committed by the faithful so that they could correct themselves and would not face similar situations in future endeavours.
The Qur'an said that, during the first stage, the lack of discipline and patience and desire for worldly benefits created the first signs of defeat. Therefore, guidance was given that whenever Muslims started out for a battle, they were to keep the orders of the Prophet (sws) and their commander in mind and were not to hesitate to obey them exactly. Leaving important check posts in order to gather war spoils was a completely unwarranted act. The attainment of worldly gain was not based on an individual effort or strategy but it was a favour from God. He gave whatever He wished to whomsoever He wished. It was necessary for the faithful to consider the Hereafter as their target. God did not deprive those who wanted the Hereafter from the benefits of the world. Such people received honour in this world and were also successful in the next.
The Muslims who had expressed doubts when observing signs of defeat and had started to think of ways to save their lives were told that this weakness of character was not becoming of those who possessed faith. It was not the way of people belonging to Allah to give up at the least sign of a trial, lose heart or surrender to the enemy. The history of the companions of messengers of God shows that firstly, they had never demonstrated such a weakness, and, that if ever they did suffer a defeat, they put it to their crossing of boundaries and asked God for forgiveness. When faced with difficult circumstances, despair was not to overwhelm the faithful that they lose their determination and courage and think about surrendering to falsehood.
Many people had been so grieved to hear of the rumour of the Prophet (sws)'s demise that they had become disinterested in their own lives. They were asked why they had developed the misconception that the Prophet (sws) would live forever? He would return to God one day, so was their loyalty to Islam only up to the time that he lived? They had believed in God, possessed His religion; they should therefore recognise their status. If they turned from their faith in frustration due to difficulties, it would be no loss to God but they would themselves be at a great loss.
Significance of the Battle of Uhud
If an analysis of the Battle of Uhud is made in the light of the detailed commentary of the Qur'an, it is clear that this battle was of great significance in God's scheme. It was used to strengthen the capabilities of the faithful and to encourage and use it as a means to elevate the status of the more sincere.
It has been observed that unless a nation faces turmoil, it's abilities remain dormant. The similarity of situations create collective weaknesses. The time to get rid of these weaknesses comes when God exposes the nation to a storm. In this, its capacities are used and this fortifies it. The Battle of Uhud was a trial for the faithful in which their strengths and weaknesses were exposed and it became possible for them to address them properly so that they could struggle with greater effort for future stages.
This war also purified the ranks of the Muslims. It exposed the mischief makers who had infiltrated their files after the Battle of Badr. After this, the faithful became careful that not only did they need to confront external forces in future, but also keep an eye on the subversive activities of ill wishers. If they had not been exposed at this stage, they could have caused great damage later.
The battle of Uhud provided every claimant to faith with a scale with which to make a judgement. The people who could not maintain their faith and level of determination were identified, as were those who demonstrated courageous feats and did not hesitate to lay down their lives for their religion. God had wanted to encourage some of His servants and award them an exalted status by giving them martyrdom. It is not known how many Muslims wished for such a status and prayed that God would bestow upon them martyrdom. How many others would have gained encouragement after seeing their honourable end? Today, it is difficult to ascertain this fact.
If some weak Muslims entertained the thought that the Quraysh could overpower Muslims by gathering more resources and better strategizing, the Qur'an dispelled this notion. It reassured Muslims that the idolaters would not be able to gain any benefit from the situation arising as a result of this battle. Their sense of victory was short lived and temporary. They would soon lose their courage and Muslims would gain success. Time proved the Qur'an's predictions to be true.
(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)
. Ibn Kathir, Al-Sirah al-nabawiyyah, vol. 2, 32.
. Ibn Sa'd, Al-Sirah al-nabawiyyah, vol. 1, 378.
. Ibid., vol. 1, 376.