The First Battle between Truth and Falsehood
On reaching Badr, the Prophet (sws) sent Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas (rta), Zubayr ibn al-'Awam (rta) and 'Ali (rta) forward to gather information about the movements of the enemy. They found the water carriers of the Quraysh and brought them back to the Prophet (sws). He asked them about the leaders present among the army and was informed that 'Utbah, Shaybah, Walid, Abu al-Bukhtari, Abu Jahal, Naḍr ibn Harith, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, Suhayl ibn 'Amr, 'Amr ibn 'Abdud, Zam'ah ibn Aswad, Hakim ibn Hizam, Nabiyah ibn al-Hajjaj and Mambah ibn al-Hajjaj were present. The Prophet (sws) said to his people: "Makkah has placed its dearest sons in front of you."
The Prophet (sws) inquired about the location of the Quraysh. The water carriers informed him that they had camped behind the hill on the other side of the valley. When the Prophet (sws) asked about their number, they expressed ignorance. The Prophet (sws) asked about the number of camels being slaughtered every day, to which they replied that these were ten. The Prophet (sws) said that the army must be around 900-1,000 in number.
After collecting this information, he entered the valley and ordered his soldiers to step down at one place. One of the Companions, Hubab ibn al-Mundhir asked if this was on the instruction of God or part of a strategy based on personal opinion, to which the Prophet (sws) replied that it was his strategy. At this, the Companion said that he was familiar with the place and suggested that they proceed ahead, and camp near a well close to where the enemy had settled. Where they were currently, the lack of water could create problems for them. The Prophet (sws) accepted this advice and going forward, settled along the well. They then dug a pit for storage of water which would enable it to be used for ablutions and other needs.
The battle was fought between truth and falsehood. When believers come out on the battlefield, fully prepared to die, Allah, too, shows the power of His help and everything in the earth and under the sky comes forward in support of the believers. This is exactly what happened on the field. There was shortage of water and the Muslims decided to store water in the pit they had dug. The ground was sandy due to which the Muslims found it difficult to keep their feet firm. Allah sent down rain, thus addressing both problems. The pit was filled with water and the sand settled so that it became easier to walk. When night fell, the Companions slept so well that, instead of being worried, they were fully rested. They woke up refreshed and participated in the battle with full concentration. Referring to these signs of God's help, the Qur'an says:
Remember He covered you with a sort of drowsiness, to give you calm as from Himself, and he caused rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith, to remove from you the stain of Satan, to strengthen your hearts, and to plant your feet firmly therewith.(8:11)
The Companions built a shelter for the Prophet (sws), who was accompanied by Abu Bakr (rta). Sa'd ibn Mu'adh (rta) stood guard along with some members from the Ansars. The Prophet (sws) spent his night in this shelter, praying to God. He prayed: "O Allah! If you let this small group of Muslims be killed today, there will be no one left to worship you on this earth. O my Lord! Keep the promise You have made to me." The Prophet (sws) continued to pray for so long that the shawl on his shoulders fell down. At this, Abu Bakr (rta) came forward and said: "O Prophet! Let this be sufficient. Allah will certainly keep His promise to you."
God sent a revelation to the Prophet (sws) not to fear the large number of disbelievers. God would send one thousand angels to fight them, in groups, one after the other. So, he was to develop strength and inner peace from this and stand firm against the enemy.
The Beginning of the Battle
At the end of the morning prayer, the Prophet (sws) shed light on the importance of the upcoming battle. He praised God for all His blessings and predicted the high status of the fighters. Then he gave instructions to the Companions for the layout of the army. He paid great attention to proper alignment of his troops, keeping the swordsmen and spear shooters in the middle and the archers to each side and continued to give guidance about the battle. In the meanwhile, the Quraysh sent one of their men, Umayr ibn Wahb to gather information about the Muslim army. He returned, saying that they were around 300, with no reserves and no one behind the lines. All their strength was on the field and there was complete silence among the troops. But their attitudes showed that they were determined to first kill their adversary and then die. If they killed a large number of the enemy, there would be nothing left to live for. Hearing this, Hakim ibn Hizam advised his leader, 'Utbah ibn Rabi'ah, to return together with their troops. 'Utbah, addressing his people, opined that each person fighting would be killing one of his relatives. They should go back and let Muhammad (sws) and the people of Arabia fight amongst themselves. If the latter succeeded, their purpose would be achieved. When Abu Jahal came to know of this, he was angry with 'Utbah and called him a coward. The Prophet (sws), who was observing the actions of 'Utbah, said that if the Quraysh were to take the advice of the owner of the red camel, they would benefit. But Abu Jahal created such barriers that 'Utbah decided to fight.
Umayr ibn Wahb reassured the Quraysh that he had made a thorough inspection and found that the Muslims did not have any weapons or means to save themselves other than their swords or spears. This report gave the Quraysh an impression of meagre resources and perceived lowly status of the Muslims, and, demonstrating their arrogance, they came out to fight. When the Prophet (sws) saw them, he said: "O Allah! These Quraysh have come here, fully equipped with arms and ammunition and charged with adversarial designs against You and Your Prophet. O' Allah! Grant us the help that You have promised. O' Allah! Destroy them." God accepted His Prophet's prayer in such a way that the Muslims saw the number of their enemy as being very small. The feelings of awe on the strength of the Quraysh vanished and they were ready to fight the enemy with renewed courage. The Quraysh, who looked at the Muslims with great contempt, came on against them. Explaining the feelings running among the two armies, the Qur'an said:
And remember when ye met, He showed them to you as few in your eyes, and He made you appear as contemptible in their eyes: that Allah might accomplish a matter already enacted. For to Allah do all questions go back [for decision].(8:44)
At the start of the battle, when three of the Quraysh leaders: 'Utbah ibn Rabi'ah, Shaybah ibn Rabi'ah and Walid ibn 'Utbah sought single combat, three young men from the Ansars came forward. The Quraysh challengers did not find them suitable according to their status and demanded men of equivalent status to be sent. At this, the Prophet (sws) ordered three dignitaries of the Banu Hashim: 'Ubaydah ibn al-Harith ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib (rta), Hamzah ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib (rta) and 'Ali ibn Abi Ṭalib, who were his uncle and cousin respectively to go forward. They killed all three Quraysh leaders and caused the first blow to the enemy. 'Ubaydah (rta) was wounded when 'Utbah's sword struck him at his ankle and he lost blood. On the way back after the battle towards Madinah, he died. After this, the formal battle began. The Prophet (sws) kept up the spirits of the Muslims by saying: "By He in whose power is the life of Muhammad, whoever fights the enemy with determination and sincerity today, goes forward and does not turn his back, Allah will give him entry to Paradise." This prediction gave strength to a wagtail to fight against an eagle. When the servants of God commit their lives to fight in His name, he sends His angels to help them. The reinforcement of the angels came at this stage too. They had been ordered by the Almighty to strike at the necks of leaders of the disbelievers one by one and break every bone in their bodies. The angels carried this out through the sleeves of the Mujahidun. The latter, showing total faith and trust in Allah, turned the troops of the Quraysh upside down. Their courage was so intense that 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf (rta) said that when he found himself between two young men from the Ansars, he wished that he had been accompanied by experienced warriors. As the battle continued, the young men asked him if he recognized 'Abu Jahal, to which he replied in the affirmative and was requested to tell them if he spotted him. They wished to kill and send him to Hell. When he saw Abu Jahal after a while, he told the young men and they moved forward and struck him down with their swords. He fell down. Then 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (rta) saw that he still had some life left and killed him with a last swing of his sword. There is some confusion regarding the names of the boys who had killed Abu Jahal. Some say that their names were Mu'adh and Mu'awwadh and some say that they were both called Mu'adh: one was Mu'adh ibn 'Amr and the other Mu'adh ibn 'Afra'. As time passed, the Quraysh became disheartened and the fear of Muslims overwhelmed them.
The fighting was in full swing when the Prophet (sws) picked up a handful of sand and, throwing it towards the enemy, cursed them: "May their faces be destroyed," and then asked his companions to carry out a full assault. The enemy was routed and began running away from the field. The Muslims followed them, killing some and capturing others.
Umayyah bin Khalaf and his sons were running away when they saw 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf (rta) holding some shields which he had removed from those killed among the disbelievers. Umayyah said that he was more precious than the shields. 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf (rta) threw down the shields and captured the father and son. Bilal (rta) saw them and shouted. 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf (rta) explained that they had been captured. Some Ansars gathered and Bilal (rta) kept on saying that Umayyah was the leader of disbelievers and he should not live. Despite all efforts made by 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf (rta), the Ansars killed both father and son. 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf (rta) used to say that Bilal (rta) had lost him both the shields and his captives. It must be remembered that Bilal (rta) who was kept as a slave by the same Umayyah was severely tortured by him.
According to reputed narratives, 70 Quraysh men were killed and around the same number were taken captive. From among the Muslims, only 14 companions were martyred, including eight Ansars and six Muhajirs. The Prophet (sws), referring to some favours of Abu al-Bukhtari, said that if he were to be found alive, he should not be killed. A companion, Majzar (rta) found him and he let him go, respecting the Prophet's instructions, but he was with his companion and was killed while trying to save him.
The Qur'an gave the information that whatever events took place during the battle were according to the decision of Allah and their impact, too, was from Allah.
It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah. when thou threwest [a handful of dust], it was not thy act, but Allah's: in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself: for Allah is He Who heareth and knoweth [all things]. (8:17)
When the battle ended and the Prophet (sws) was given the news of all the front line leaders of the Quraysh having been killed, he prayed two raka'at for thanksgiving and said: "Thanks be to Allah, who has shown his promise to be true, made his servant victorious and humiliated the enemy forces." Thus, the fact to which the Qur'an alluded of God demonstrating His special signs by giving the truth the upper hand and overcoming falsehood, thereby making the Battle of Badr a punishment for the Quraysh, was admitted by the Prophet (sws) who did not take any credit for it himself. After this, he had the corpses of the Quraysh buried in a pit in the battleground and addressing them, said:
"O those who inhabit the pit! You proved to be the worst of families for your Prophet. You denied me, whereas others believed in me. You banished me from your city, whereas others gave me refuge. You fought me whereas others helped me. O 'Utbah, O Shaybah, O Umayyah,OAbu Jahal! Is this not a fact that what your Lord had promised, you found it to be true? What my Lord promised me, I have found it to be true."
In this address of the Prophet (sws), he highlighted the crime that the Quraysh had committed in denying the message of truth thus making themselves liable to punishment from God. But, because God gives victory to His messenger, he and his companions emerged successful despite the lack of equipment and resources, thus making God's promise true.
The Battle of Badr was the first organized war fought by the Muslims. They obtained a large amount of booty from it. Because the number of captives was large, many Muslims were busy in making arrangements for them while others kept a watch to protect the Prophet (sws). The rest of the companions gathered the booty. Then differences appeared on who had the right over the booty. The ones who had collected it were of the opinion that they had rights over it, while those who captured the Quraysh claimed it as their right. Had they not faced the enemy, where would this booty have come from? The protectors of the Prophet (sws) asked for their share. As the debate developed, it became apparent that the piety, mutual trust and submission to the will of God and His Prophet (sws), which were the basic ingredients of true faith had not yet developed within the group. At this stage, the Qur'an gave the concept of war booty being possessed collectively: one-fifth of which would be used by the state for the collective good while the rest would be distributed among the participants of the battle. The Prophet (sws), therefore, ordered for the booty to be collected at one place, separated the share of the state and then distributed the remaining among the Mujahidun. He also gave a share to the eight Companions who had remained behind in Madinah for specifically assigned responsibilities.
In order to train the believers in the light of the weakness shown by some people in the matter of distribution of the war booty, the Qur'an clarified the characteristics of true believers. It said that true believers were those who were conscious of God's greatness and glory which would prevent them from being oblivious of the right path. When they were given an instruction or order according to the shari'ah, they accepted it open heartedly and, this, in turn, caused their faith to be strengthened. They placed trust in their Lord and they believed that whatever had been ordered by their Lord was good for them; whatever circumstances they faced were better for them. True believers remained faithful to their Lord. They sorted out their mutual differences in a conciliatory and peaceful manner and were regular in prayers and giving of alms. They did not show any hesitation in fulfilling these instructions.
Return from Badr
Taking the captives and the booty, the Prophet (sws) proceeded towards Madinah. The captives were held by the Companions who had arrested them and the booty was given in the custody of 'Abdullah bin Ka'b (rta), who belonged to the Banu Najjar. On the way, while they rested in a pass, the Prophet (sws) distributed the booty among those who had participated, keeping the share of those who had remained in Madinah aside. When he reached a place called Al-Rawha', many Muslims and Companions came from Madinah to congratulate him. Salamah ibn Salamah Ansari (rta), addressing the people, said: "What are you congratulating us for? We faced old women who had come out of their homes. They were like camels which we slaughtered." Hearing this, the Prophet (sws) smiled and said: "Nephew, do not say that. After all, they were the leaders of the Quraysh."
When the captives reached Madinah, the Mother of the faithful, Sawdah (rta) saw Suhayl ibn 'Amr, who was sitting in a corner with his hands tied to his neck. She said: "Abu Yazid, why did you not die with dignity?" The Prophet (sws) heard this and said: "O Sawdah! Are you inciting him against Allah and His messenger?" She replied:" O Messenger of Allah! By Him who blessed you with prophet hood with truth, it just came out casually from my mouth when I saw him with his hands tied around his neck."
The Prophet (sws) instructed the Companions who had the captives to treat them well. As a consequence, the families would eat dates and gave bread to their captives. Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr (rta)'s brother 'Abu 'Aziz said that in such a situation, when he tried to return the bread to a member of the house, he would not take it and gave it back to him.
News of the Defeat in Makkah
The first person who arrived in Makkah with the news of defeat was Haythaman ibn 'Abdullah al-Khuza'i. He was surrounded by people. When he gave the news of several leaders having been killed, people did not believe him. Ṣafwan ibn Umayyah was sitting inside the hatim of the Ka'bah. When he heard this, he said: "This person has become deranged. To assess his sanity, ask him about me." People asked him as to what was Ṣafwan doing at that time. He replied that he was sitting inside the hatim and, swearing by God, he said that he had seen with his own eyes his father and brother being killed.
Abu Lahab was informed that his nephew Mughirah ibn Harith had returned from the front and he asked for him to be brought to him. When he came, other people too gathered around him. Abu Lahab asked: "Nephew, what transpired?" He answered: "In short, we came face to face and we bent our heads. They struck at our necks as they wished and made us their captives as they wished".
Abu Lahab had sent another man in his place to save himself but he could not keep himself safe from God's punishment. Just a few days after the battle, he contracted small pox and his entire body became full of pustules. To avoid contagion, none of his relatives would go near him. He died after suffering great pain. His children were afraid to bury his corpse which lay for 2-3 days and started to smell. Some black men pulled the corpse to one side against a wall and struck blows upon the latter so that it fell down upon the corpse. This mound became his grave.
Makkah went into a state of mourning due to the large number of dead. Women pulled at their hair and wailed. Men, in a state of frustration, wounded several animals. The leaders of the Quraysh realized that such behavior would create humiliation for them in the entire country and Muslims would get a chance to ridicule them. Hence they announced that no one should mourn. There were to be no hasty efforts to bring back the captives, otherwise Muhammad (sws) and his companions would demand a high ransom.
The Day of Furqan
The Qur'an has called the Battle of Badr the Day of Furqan: the battle that distinguishes truth from falsehood. This battle determined who was on the side of truth and who on falsehood? Who had God on their side and who did not? Which group was fated for what and why? Additionally, this battle also tested the faith of the believers. There are several reasons as evidence for this battle being the Furqan.
1. It is known that the Muslim army was smaller, weaker and less equipped than the enemy in every way. This is why one of the groups showed their weakness and kept advising that they should fight the trade convoy. But God created such circumstances that each and every Muslim had to fight the enemy with full focus and concentration and Muslims succeeded in this.
2. Very close relatives came face to face in this battle and Muslims proved beyond doubt that the bond of faith was dearer to them than that of blood. Abu Bakr Ṣiddiq's (rta) son had not yet become a Muslim and came to fight. After he accepted Islam, he told his father that at one stage, he had come within his range but he did not raise his sword because of their relationship. Abu Bakr (rta) replied that if he had come within his range, he would not have let him go. Al-'As ibn Hisham was 'Umar (rta)'s maternal uncle and was killed at his hands. Abu Hudhayfah (rta) was 'Utbah's son. When the latter's corpse was being put into a pit, the Prophet (sws) happened to look at Abu Hudhayfah's face which was pale and said: "Abu Hudhayfah, are you feeling something for your father?" He replied:" No, indeed, O Prophet of God! By God, my views have not changed because of my father or his death. The fact is that I had always known my father to hold a balanced opinion, and to be patient and gracious. I had expected that these qualities would attract him towards Islam. Now that I have seen his fate and when I remember the state of denial in which he died, this is what makes me sorrowful." When the Prophet (sws) heard this, he prayed for Abu Hudhayfah (rta). Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr (rta) went by an Ansari who was taking his brother prisoner. He said to him: "Bind him tight; his mother is very wealthy; she will pay a high ransom for him." His brother said: "Brother, you are advising him against me." Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr (rta) said: "You are not my brother: this Ansari is." Among the captives of this battle were the Prophet (sws)'s uncle 'Abbas, two cousins, Aqil ibn Abi Ṭalib and Nawfal ibn Harith and one son in law, 'Abu al-'As ibn Rabi'ah, who had to gain freedom after payment of ransom and were not treated differently from other prisoners. The Battle of Badr taught the lesson that the criteria for attachment to the faithful was faith and not blood or nationality.
3. The Quraysh believed themselves to be on the right path in the battle and they thought that the Prophet (sws) had committed a great sin by breaking blood relationships in their tribes. Hence, they entered the battlefield with this prayer: "O God! Kill him who breaks off relationships and brings new ideas within our religion." In their arrogance of being right, they gave great significance to the result of the battle and announced that whichever group was successful would be on the right path. When this decisive battle ended, the Qur'an demanded that they accept the decision of the battle in the light of their announcement. It said: "(O Unbelievers!) if ye prayed for victory and judgment, now hath the judgment come to you: if ye desist (from wrong), it will be best for you: if ye return (to the attack), so shall We. Not the least good will your forces be to you even if they were multiplied: for verily Allah is with those who believe! (8:19)"
4. The glories of God's help, as explained above, were observed during every stage of the battle. Believers felt the support of angels and obtained reassurance from this. The idolaters also saw that they were facing some supernatural forces. This is why their nerves were shattered and their illusion of power evaporated. Muslims killed whoever they wanted and took prisoner whoever they wanted. Biographers have written that, of all the leaders who had conspired to kill the Prophet (sws) in Dar al-Nadwah, only three were left alive: all others were killed in the Battle of Badr. These three had the honour to accept Islam in later stages.
5. The Qur'an told the Quraysh that they had demanded God's punishment from the Prophet (sws) and it was not met. They would pray: "OGod! If this is the Truth from you and we are denying it, then send upon us a rain of stones or any other punishment." But, in answer to this, there were no stones that rained, nor was there any other punishment. The reason for this was that the Prophet (sws) of God and his companions were amongst them at that time. They prayed constantly for forgiveness. God was considerate of their prayers and behests; therefore, the Quraysh, too, remained safe from God's punishment. Once that barrier was no more why would God keep them safe from punishment, when they prevented people from coming to the Ka'aba and were not worthy of being its custodians? This sin of theirs was so great that in future, they would only smash their heads against the believers. They would put all their wealth and possessions into this effort but the frustration of the loss would be a thorn in their hearts. Despite this, they could not gain victory. Defeat would be their destiny.
Prisoners of War
Seventy men of the Quraysh were taken prisoner during the Battle of Badr. Obtaining their freedom was a matter of great humiliation for the Quraysh. Relatives of the prisoners came to the Prophet (sws) to request their release. In Surah Muhammad, he had been instructed to take the enemy prisoner in case of a war; then, if he let them go as a favour, or took ransom and then released them, both ways would be acceptable. In the light of this instruction, he took a maximum of 4,000 and a minimum of 1,000 dirhams per person according to his economic status. Those who did not have any wealth were asked to teach Muslim children how to read and write. Some were even released on promise of remaining neutral. The prisoners included the Prophet (sws)'s uncle 'Abbas and son in law Abu al-'As. 'Abbas was a wealthy man. The Prophet (sws) obtained ransom for two of his nephews, 'Aqil ibn Abi Ṭalib and Nawfal ibn Harith as well as an ally 'Utbah ibn 'Amr. As ransom, to have Abu al-'As released, the Prophet (sws)'s daughter, Zaynab (rta) sent her gold necklace, which her mother Khadijah had given to her at her wedding, from Makkah. Seeing this, the Prophet (sws) became tearful. After approval from the Muslims, he returned the necklace and released Abu al-'As on the condition that as soon as he reached Makkah, he would bring Zaynab (rta) to Madinah.
The Quraysh were downhearted because they suffered such a defeat in the very first battle with the Prophet (sws) that would cause them much humiliation in the entire Arab world. They then decided to run yet another propaganda campaign. It seems that Jewish minds must have been behind this plan. They started to say that prophets of God in reality were those who guided people towards the right path, preached truth to them, adopted the way of piety themselves and also called others to the same. They were not attracted to the ways of the world and fighting wars was not a matter that suited their status. Why would they be happy in killing people and taking them prisoner? The prophets of the People of the Book preached piety to people, focused on worship and taught them monastic ways of living. They neither took their enemies captive nor killed them.
This propaganda was so poisonous that it could have influenced the common people negatively, especially in situations where they knew about monasteries of Christians and were familiar with their prayer rituals. The Qur'an, therefore, countered this itself and said:
When they advanced to meet Goliath and his forces, they prayed: "Our Lord! Pour out constancy on us and make our steps firm: Help us against those that reject faith." By Allah's will they routed them; and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever [else] He willed. And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: But Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds. (2:250-251)
Referring to Badr in particular, in which 70 kafirs were killed and the same number were taken prisoner, and much war booty was taken, the Qur'an said that messengers tried to prevent situations that could result in war, in which people would be killed and captured. But the responsibility for the war at Badr could not be put upon the Prophet (sws): the Quraysh themselves were responsible for this. Desire for the world was not the way of prophets: this was the habit of those who consider the world to be all in all. The attitude which they had adopted towards the Prophet (sws) of God demanded that a great punishment descend upon them, but God had decided to give them more time. Then the Qur'an reassured the faithful that taking the war spoils and using them was a legitimate and pure act. They should not be worried about the propaganda of the kafirs and use the war booty legitimately. It said:
It is not fitting for an apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. Ye look for the temporal goods of this world; but Allah looketh to the Hereafter: And Allah is Exalted in might, Wise. Had it not been for a previous ordainment from Allah, a severe penalty would have reached you for the [ransom] that ye took. But (now) enjoy what ye took in war, lawful and good: but fear Allah. for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. O Messenger. say to those who are captives in your hands: "If Allah findeth any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." But if they have treacherous designs against thee, [O Messenger], they have already been in treason against Allah, and so hath He given (thee) power over them. And Allah so He Who hath [full] knowledge and wisdom. (8:67-71)
The prediction in these verses indicated, as mentioned above, that the Quraysh would be allowed more time to reform and correct themselves. But if they failed to refrain from their treachery, they would face humiliation again.
These verses of Surah Anfal indicate that the activity regarding spoils of war was neither against Islamic teaching nor wisdom. It was carried out with God's will and it had expectations associated with it. Therefore, some narratives that consider this activity to be a case of anger against the Prophet (sws) are not authentic. According to these narratives, the decision of the Prophet (sws) about prisoners was wrong and that he had accepted ransom for them in a desire for worldly goods. At this, he was threatened, God forbid, with great punishment. When saying this, people forget that prophets are innocent beings and every action of theirs is performed under God's guidance. If there is any possibility of a wrong act, he is stopped from it. In the Battle of Badr, the handful of dust thrown in the eyes of the enemy was attributed to God Himself, but it is strange that if, as a result of the decision about 70 prisoners, he was threatened with dire consequences, the decision was not overturned. The reality is that instructions had been revealed already in Surah Mohammed (sws) that prisoners of war could be either released after ransom or without, as a mark of favour.
Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers [in fight], smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly [on them]: thereafter [is the time for] either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus [are ye commanded]): but if it had been Allah's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them [Himself]; but [He lets you fight] in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost. (47:4)
The words "when ye meet the Unbelievers [in fight]" inthese verses are sufficient to prove that these instructions were revealed before the Battle of Badr and they were acted upon exactly in that battle. No other battle had shed as much blood of the enemy as that one. Apart from this, several were taken prisoner and ransomed. Services were taken from those who possessed nothing and then they were released.
The prisoners of war had the opportunity to observe the culture of Madinah, the behaviour of the Muslims, their desire to make sacrifices for Islam and the revolutionary situation created by Islam, and this impressed them considerably. When they were released, they were informed that Muslims had no interest in ransom: the real interest was for them to accept Islam's guidance. They were being released in the expectation that they would be convinced soon of the truth of Islam and become part of its circle, and would not fight Islam along with the idolators in future. If they did not value their life being given back to them, God would place them again within the control of Muslims.
Strategy for Muslims after the Battle of Badr
The Battle of Badr was a lash of punishment which struck the Quraysh as a result of their denial of the Prophet (sws). It was, however, not of such a nature that all idolaters perished, but it was a way to open their eyes so that those who were more far sighted among them could come to Islam. The Qur'an said:
Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). (8:38)
This meant that if the Quraysh did not refrain from their heinous activities, they were to remember that they would face the same Sunnah of God which had been demonstrated in the case of previous nations: 'Ad, Thamud, Madyan, nation of Lot etc in the form of severe punishment. A prophet is the last measure to bring a wayward nation to conclusion of the arguments which would bring them back to the right path. This is the reason why the nation that denies its prophet is not allowed to exist on the earth.
The plan of action that was given to the Muslims after the Battle of Badr was that they were to continue fighting the Quraysh and their allies until the mischief of stopping Muslims from the religion of truth through force was eliminated and no possibility of oppressing or becoming a barrier towards anyone who accepted Islam remained. The purpose of this effort was that no religion except Islam, which was the religion of Abraham (sws) would remain in the land of the Ka'bah and those custodians who had destroyed the aims of the Ka'bah would be ousted from it. The Qur'an said:
And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. (8:39)
This verse shows very clearly that if the idolaters corrected their attitude, God would not consider the mistakes of their past but the actions of their future. But, if they remained fixated upon their obduracy and stubbornness, their large numbers and excess wealth would not be of any benefit to them. God would show His power in subsequent wars, just as He had done in that battle.
To implement this plan of action it became necessary to give specific guidance to the Muslims. Thus, the following instructions were revealed after the Battle of Badr.
1. Muslims fit for fighting were to be organized and horses trained so that effective battles could be fought. The military strength of the Muslims was to be such that the enemy could not consider them easy prey.
2. Muslims were not to worry about their small numbers. If they developed the qualities of perseverance and patience, they would be victorious if they faced armies ten times larger than theirs.
3. If facing the enemy involved organized fighting, deserting the battle field was considered as serious a crime as denial or apostasy. Those who backed out from the battle were worthy of God's anger and their place was in Hell.
4. Muslims had stood up to establish submission and obedience to God. Hence, submission and service to God was to remain predominant in their actions. Even when coming out for a battle, they were not to be arrogant and pompous and show off their strength. They were never to be proud of their numbers and resources. Real strength was not in equipment and numbers, but in the support and closeness of God.
5. Steadfastness was a necessary condition to gain God's support while facing the enemy on the battle field. It is only when His servants put all their skills into the war that God provides His help. If they do not fulfill their obligations, they are deprived of God's support.
6. It is essential to remember God during battle. This is an effective way to achieve steadfastness. The source of all courage and determination within a believer's heart is the remembrance of God. It creates faith which strengthens the heart.
7. Difference of opinion while implementing orders is extremely dangerous. It causes anarchy within the group, causing lowering of morale amongst troops and their defeat.
8. The believer relies on God, not upon his own strength. God's power is indefatigable. No one's strategy can work against God's strategy. Believers keep their faith in God and He becomes a friend to those who trust in Him.
9. At any stage, if the Quraysh desired truce, their request was not to be rejected. If they tried to do this through deception or mischievousness, Muslims were to remember that God was with them and He was sufficient to counter their mischief.
All of these instructions were given in Surah Anfal. They include all necessary clauses for Islamic rules for wars. If anything remained, it was covered by commenting upon the performance of Muslims in later wars.
(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)
. Ibn Kathir, Al-Sirah al-nabawiyyah, vol. 1, 556.
. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jam' al-sahih, vol. 3, 129.
. Ibn Kathir, Al-Sirah al-nabawiyyah, vol. 1, 584.
. Ibn Kathir, Al-Sirah al-nabawiyyah, vol. 1, 602-603.