The emigration of Prophet Muhammad (saw) to Madina had turned the enemies from Makkah more hostile and they constantly kept on thinking how they could overthrow him, and put an end to Islam. The Makkans and their allies started to bring their raids to the very outskirts of Madina, destroying the fruit trees of the Muslims and carrying away their flocks.
Hence, the Battle of Badr is one of the greatest and most famous battles of Islam. For the first time the followers of the new faith were put into a serious test. This was a key battle in the early days of Islam and proved to be a turning point in Islam’s struggle with its oppressive opponents, amongst them the Quraysh in Makkah. And those who participated in it enjoyed a special distinction amongst the Muslims. The word ‘Badri’ is used in the biographies of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (saw) for those persons who participated in the Battle of Badr.
In the middle of Jamadi-ul-Awwal of the second year of migration a report was received in Madina that a caravan was going from Makkah to Syria under the leadership of Abu Sufyan and Prophet Muhammad (saw) went up to Zatul Ashirah to pursue the caravan and stayed there till the beginning of the following month, but could not lay hands on it.
One of the praiseworthy policies adopted by Prophet Muhammad (saw) in all the battles was that he used to collect information about the strength of the enemy and his location. The information received was as under:
- It is a big caravan and all Makkans have shares in its merchandise.
- The leader of the caravan is Abu Sufyan and there are about forty persons who guard it.
- The merchandise is loaded on one thousand camels and its value is about fifty thousand dinars.
As Quraysh had confiscated the property of Muslim Muhajirs residing in Madina, it was only appropriate that the Muslims should also confiscate their merchandise and if they persisted in withholding the property of the Muhajir Muslims on account of their enmity and obstinacy, the Muslims should, as a retaliatory measure, divide their merchandise amongst themselves as war booty.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) stood up and said: “What is your view in the matter?”
Miqdad stood up and said: “O Prophet of Allah! Our hearts are with you and you should act according to the orders given to you by Allah (SWT). By Allah! We shall not tell you what Bani Israel told Musa (as). When Musa (as) asked them to perform Jihad they said to him: ‘O Musa! You and your Lord should go and perform Jihad and we shall sit here’. We, however, tell you quite the reverse of it and say: Perform Jihad under the auspices of the blessings of Allah (SWT) and we are also with you and shall fight”.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) was very much pleased to hear Miqdad’s words and prayed for him.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) left Madina with 313 men in the month of Ramadan of the second year of migration to confiscate the property of Quraysh encamped by the side of the well of Badr.
While going to Syria Abu Sufyan had realized that Prophet Muhammad (saw) was pursuing his caravan. He was, therefore, careful at the time of his return and enquired from other caravans whether Prophet Muhammad (saw) had occupied the trade routes. It was reported to him that Prophet Muhammad (saw) had left Madina along with his companions and might be pursuing the caravan of Quraysh.
Abu Sufyan refrained from proceeding further. He did not see any alternative except to inform Quraysh about the impending danger to the caravan. In the mean time Abu Sufyan, changed the course of the caravan and covering two stages of the journey at a time, took it out of the zone of influence of Islam. He also appointed a man to go and inform Quraysh that the caravan had been saved from attack by the Muslims and they should, therefore, return to Makkah and leave it to the Arabs to settle the affairs with Prophet Muhammad (saw).
The news of the escape of Abu Sufyan’s caravan circulated amongst the Muslims. Those who had greedily kept an eye on the merchandise were very much disturbed by this development. Allah (SWT) revealed the following verse to strengthen their hearts:
Allah has promised to grant your victory over one of the two bands (the caravan and those who had come to defend it), but you wished to fight the one that was unarmed. He sought to fulfill His promise and to annihilate the unbelievers, so that truth should triumph and falsehood be uprooted, though the wrongdoers wished otherwise. (Surah al-Anfal, 8:7)
As opposed to the suggestion of Abu Sufyan, Abu Jahl insisted that they should go to the region of Badr, stay there for three days, kill camels, drink wine and hear the minstrel girls sing so that their valour might reach the ears of the Arabs and they should have a high regard for them forever.
The fascinating words of Abu Jahl made Quraysh wait at that place and halt at an elevated point in the desert behind a mound. Heavy rain made movement difficult for them and kept them from proceeding further.
On the 17th of Ramadan of the second year of migration (2AH or 624 CE) Quraysh descended, early in the morning, from behind the sandy mound into the desert of Badr under the leadership of Abu Jahl. When Prophet Muhammad (saw) saw them he raised his face to the sky and said: “O Allah! Quraysh are up, with pride and arrogance, to fight against You and to deny Your Prophet! Send the aid which You have promised me and destroy them today!”
It was an old custom of the Arabs that in the beginning of a battle single combats were resorted to, and later general fighting began.
Three famous warriors of Quraysh came out of their ranks and challenged for a fight. They were two brothers Utbah and Shaybah, sons of Rabiyyah, and Walid bin Utbah and all of them were fully armed. They roared and ran their horses in the field and called their opponents to fight. Three brave men from amongst the Ansars named Awf, Ma’uz and Abdullah Rawahah came out of the ranks of the Muslims. Utbah, however, realized that they were from Madina and said to them: “We have nothing to do with you”. Then a man (from amongst Quraysh) shouted: “O Muhammad! Send our equals to fight with us!” Prophet Muhammad (saw) turned his face to Ubaydah, Hamzah and Ali and said: “Get up”. The three brave men covered their heads and faces and of they went to the battlefield. All the three persons introduced themselves. Utbah accepted all of them for a combat and said: “Yes, you are our equals”.
Some say that in this combat each warrior fought with his rival of the same age. Ali, who was the youngest of them, met Walid (maternal uncle of Mu’awiyah), the middle-aged amongst the Muslims (Hamzah) faced Utbah (maternal grandfather of Mu’awiyah) and Ubaydah, who was the oldest amongst the Muslim combatants fought with Shaybah, who was oldest from the other side. Ibn Hisham, however, says that the opponent of Hamzah was Shaybah and that of Ubaydah was Utbah.
Historians write that Ali and Hamzah killed their opponents in the very first moment and then hurried to help Ubaydah and killed his adversary as well.
As a consequence of the warriors of Quraysh being killed general attack started, and Quraysh began attacking in groups. Prophet Muhammad (saw) ordered that the Muslims should refrain from attacking and should prevent the advance of the enemy by means of archery.
The character of Prophet Muhammad (saw), whose posture in the battlefield was described by Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, is as follows: “Every time when fighting became intense we took refuge with Prophet Muhammad (saw). None of us was nearer to the enemy than he”.
Then Prophet Muhammad (saw) returned to the seat of command and with his heart overflowing with faith, turned his face to the Aimighty and said: “O Lord! If this group is annihilated today, none else will worship you on the face of the earth.”
Then Prophet Muhammad (saw) picked up some dust and throwing it towards Quraysh, said: “May your faces be metamorphosed!” Thereafter he gave orders for general attack.
Allah had helped you at Badr, when you were a contemptible little force: Then fear Allah in order to show your gratitude. When you did say to the believers: Does it not suffice you that your Creator should help you with three thousand angels sent down. (Surah al-e-Imran, 3:123-124)
The signs of victory of the Muslims began to appear soon. The enemies were stricken with terror and began to flee. The Muslims, who were fighting with the help of their faith, and knew that both killing and being killed were blessings of Allah (SWT), were perfectly undaunted and nothing stopped their advance.
Bilal, the Ethiopian, was a slave of Umayyah ibn Khalaf in the past. As Bilal had embraced Islam while he was a slave, Umayyah ibn Khalaf used to torture him severely. In order to make him abjure Islam he used to make him lie on hot sand during the summer season and placed a big stone on his chest. Even in that condition Bilal used to say: ‘Ahad! Ahad! Ahad!’ (Allah is One, Allah is One, Allah is One). The Ethiopian slave suffered a good deal until Hazrat Abu Bakr purchased and set him free.
In the Battle of Badr Bilal’s eyes fell on Umayyah ibn Khalaf and he realized that Abdur Rahman wanted to favour him. He, therefore, cried aloud: “O friends of Allah! Umayyah ibn Khalaf is one of the chiefs of unbelievers. He should not be allowed to live”. The Muslims encircled Umayyah ibn Khalaf from all sides and put him and his son to death.
Abdullah ibn Masud, a companion of Prophet Muhammad (saw), was the first person to openly recite Glorious Qur’an in front of a gathering. He participated in all the battles of Prophet Muhammad (saw) but was so short that even when he stood up among people who were sitting, he would not rise above them! It was for this reason that in the battle of Badr, he requested Prophet Muhammad (saw): “I do not possess the strength to fight in the battle of Badr; can you assign me some task by means of which I too can attain the same reward as those who fight?”
“Look amongst the dying infidels and if you happen to find anyone of them still alive, kill them,” Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied.
Abdullah ibn Masud narrates: “As I moved in the midst of people who seemed to be dead, I came to Abu Jahl, the most unyielding enemy of Prophet Muhammad (saw). He still had some life left in him.
“I thank Allah (SWT) that He has humiliated you,” I said as I sat on his chest. Abu Jahl opened his eyes and grunted, “Woe unto you! Who has been victorious?” “Victory is for Allah and His Prophet, and it is for this reason that I shall kill you,” I replied, placing my foot on his neck.
With great arrogance, he cried, “O’ tiny shepherd! You have placed your foot on a very exalted place. Do know that nothing is more painful for me than to be killed by a dwarf like you. Oh! Why did not one of the sons of Abdul Muttalib kill me?”
I severed his head from his body and appeared before Prophet Muhammad (saw). “Glad tidings to you, O’ Prophet of Allah! This is the head of Abu Jahl.”
“Abu Jahl was more sinful and worse than Firawn of the time of Musa (as). When Firawn was convinced that he would perish, he believed in Allah (SWT), whereas when Abu Jahl became certain of his impending doom, he called upon al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat to save him,” Prophet Muhammad (saw) remarked later.
Many Muslim historians believe that in the Battle of Badr single combats and collective attacks continued till midday and the battle came to an end after noontide, when Quraysh fled and some of them were captured. The martyrs of Badr were buried in a corner of the battlefield. Their graves still exist and devoted Muslims visit them to offer their respects. After burying the martyrs Prophet Muhammad (saw) performed afternoon prayers at that place and came out of the desert of Badr before sunset.
In this battle fourteen men from amongst the Muslims were killed. As regards Quraysh seventy of them were killed and seventy others were captured.
The forces of truth and falsehood faced each other for the first time in the Valley of Badr. The number of the army of truth did not exceed 313 whereas the army of falsehood was three times as big as that. The Muslims were not properly equipped. Their means of transport consisted of about seventy camels and a few horses, while the enemy had come with full strength to knock down Islam, consisting of 1000 strong men with 700 camels and 100 horses. In spite of all this, however, truth was victorious and the enemy returned to Makkah after having sustained heavy losses.
Note: Abu Lahab who had not participated in this battle of Badr and had sent someone else in his own place was sitting by the well of Zamzam. Suddenly people brought the news that Abu Sufyan had arrived. Abu Lahab said: “Tell him to see me as early as possible”. Abu Sufyan came, sat by the side of Abu Lahab and gave a detailed account of the happenings at Badr. Agitation and fear struck Abu Lahab’s heart like lightening. After burning in high fever for seven days he died of some mysterious
Ibn Kathir (Battle of the Prophet)