Battle of Uhud
WHEN the survivors of the defeated Quraysh at Badr returned to Mecca gathered to speak with Abu Sufyan. They said, ‘Muhammad has best men, so help us to fight him so that we may avenge those we have lost.’ In order to do this it was agreed that everyone who had had a share in the caravan should put his profits towards the cost of a new army, which would be three times as big as the one at Badr.
Among those who joined the new army was an Abyssinian slave called Wahshi; who was known for his accuracy with the spear. His master, Jubayr ibn al-Mut’im, said to him, ‘Go with the army and if you kill Hamzah, the uncle of Muhammad, in revenge for my uncle’s death, I will set you free when Hind, Abu Sufyan’s wife, heard about this she sent a Wahshi to say that she would clothe him in gold and silk if he would carry out his master’s wish, for she, too, wanted Hamzah dead because he had killed both her father and brother.
While the Meccans made their plans, the Prophet’s uncle, ^Abbas, one the few Muslims still living in Mecca, sent a letter of warning to the Prophet (pbuh) in Medina. He told him that Quraysh were setting out with a huge arm for Uhud, a place just outside Medina. On receiving this timely warning the Prophet (pbuh) gathered his companions around him to discuss what they should do. He thought it would be better to wait for the enemy inside city rather than go out to meet them, because it would be easier to defend Medina from inside the city walls. But the young Muslims wanted to go out and face Quraysh. They said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, lead us out against our enemies, or else they will think we are too cowardly and too weak to fight them.’
One of the rulers of Medina, ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, however, agreed with the Prophet (pbuh) and advised him to remain in the city, saying, ‘Whenever we have gone out to fight an enemy we have met with disaster, but none has ever come in against us without being defeated.’
But when the Prophet (pbuh) saw that the majority was in favor of going out to meet Quraysh, he decided to do so, and after the Friday prayer he put on his armor. The Muslims then set out with one thousand men in the direction of Mount Uhud which overlooks Medina. The enemy was camped on the plain below the mountain where they were laying waste the crops of the Muslims.
‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy was angry that the Prophet (pbuh) had not followed his advice and after going part of the way, turned back for Medina, taking one third of the entire army with him. This left the Prophet (pbuh) with only seven hundred men to meet the enormous Meccan army, which numbered three thousand.
The remainder of the Muslims went on until they reached the mountain of Uhud. There the Prophet (pbuh) ordered them to stand in ranks in front of the mountain, so that they would be protected from behind. He then positioned fifty archers on top of the mountain, giving them the following order: ‘Keep the Meccan cavalry away from us with your arrows and don’t let them come against us from the rear, whether the battle goes in our favor or against us. Whatever happens keep to your places so that we cannot be attacked from your direction, even if you see us being slain or booty being taken.’
When the Muslims were in position, the Prophet (pbuh) held up his sword and said, ‘Who will use this sword with its right?’ This was a great honor and many men rose to claim it, but the Prophet (pbuh) decided to give it to Abu Dujanah, a fearless warrior. Then the battle commenced.
The Muslims were well organized and had the advantage, because although Quraysh had more than four times as many men, they were tired from their journey and thus not ready to fight. As a result, the Muslims were able to make a surprise attack, led by Abu Dujanah, who was wearing a brilliant red turban.
As the fighting increased the Quraysh women, led by Hind, began to beat their drums to urge their men on. They called out poems to encourage their men to be brave. If you advance, we hug you, spread soft rugs beneath you; if you retreat, we leave you. Leave and no more love you.’ Abu Dujanah said: ‘I saw someone urging the enemy on, shouting wildly, and I made for him, but when I lifted my sword against him he screamed and I saw that it was a woman; I respected the Apostle’s sword too much to use it on a woman.’ That woman was Hind.
As usual, Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle, fought with great courage, but while leading the Muslims in a fierce attack, which nearly defeated the Meccans, he was suddenly and cruelly struck down by the slave Wahshi. Later, Wahshi told how it happened: ‘I was watching Hamzah while he was killing men with his sword. I aimed my spear until I was sure it would hit the mark and hurled it at him. He came on towards me but collapsed and fell. I left him there until he died, then I came and took back my spear. Then I went back to the camp because I did not want to kill anyone but him. My only aim in killing him was to gain my freedom.’
The Quraysh warriors were soon scattered and forced to retreat. It looked as though they had been defeated! Seeing this, forty of the fifty Muslims archers on top of the mountain ran down from their position to collect booty, for the Quraysh army had left many of their belongings behind. The archers rushed to take what they could, forgetting the Prophet’s orders.
Khalid ibn al-Walid, Commander of the Quraysh cavalry, saw what’ happening and quickly turned his men around and ordered them to attack the Muslims from behind. The Muslims were taken completely by surprise. The Quraysh then began attacking from both sides at once. Many Muslims were killed and instead of winning they began to lose the battle. To add to the confusion, it was rumored that the Prophet (pbuh) had killed. When the Muslims heard this they were at a loss to know what to do. Then a man named Anas called out, ‘Brothers! If Muhammad (pbuh) has been killed what will your lives be worth without him? Don’t think about living or dying. Fight for Allah. Get up and die the way Muhammad (pbuh) died!’ and on hearing these words the Muslims took courage.
There had been several cavalry attacks on the position held by the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions and the Prophet’s cheek had been badly gashed. As the Meccans closed in again he called out, ‘Who will sell his life for us?’ At this, five Ansar got up and fought until they were killed, one by one. Their places were soon taken, however, by a number of Muslims who drove off the attackers. Amongst the defending Muslims was Abu Dujanah who put his arms around the Prophet (pbuh) and made himself into a human shield. Throughout the remainder of the battle he held on to the Prophet (pbuh), but as the fighting drew to a close he suddenly let go. Abu Dujanah was dead, killed by the many arrows in his back that had been aimed at the Prophet (pbuh).
With the defeat of the Muslims, Quraysh were at last avenged. As they left the field of battle Abu Sufyan called out to his men, ‘You have done well; victory in war goes by turns-today in exchange for Badr!’ When he heard this, the Prophet (pbuh) told ‘Umar to answer him, saying, ‘Allah is Most High and Most Glorious. We are not equal. Our dead are in Paradise and your dead are in Hell!’ The Muslim soldiers then followed the departing Quraysh part of the way to make sure they were not going to attack Medina.
After the enemy had left, the Prophet (pbuh) made his way around the Battlefield to see the extent of the Muslim losses. Many of the most faithful Muslims had been killed. Among the dead, the Prophet (pbuh) found the body of his closest friend and uncle, Hamzah, who had been killed by the slave, Wahshi. At the sight of this, the Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘There will never be a moment as sad for me as this.’ Hamzah’s sister, Safiyya, came to pray and ask forgiveness for her brother, saying ‘We belong to Allah and to Allah we are returning.’ After the Prophet (pbuh) had prayed over the many dead, he said, ‘I tell you that no one has been wounded Allah’s cause but Allah will remember him and on the Day of Resurrection will raise him from the dead. Look for the one who has lthe Koran and put him in front of his companions in the grave.’ They were buried where they had fallen as martyrs. Of them Allah says:
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Do not Think that those, who were killed for Allah’s sake are dead.
Nay, they are alive. With their Lord they have provision.
Jubilant (are they) because of that which Allah hath
bestowed upon them of His bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those that have not yet joined them because they have nothing to fear or grieve over.
It is said that the Prophet (pbuh) swore that no Muslim who had died for his beliefs would want to come back to life for a single hour, even if he could own the whole world, unless he could return and fight for Allah and be killed a second time. The Muslims realized that their defeat had been caused by their disobedience to the Prophet (pbuh). The Koran tells us that the Muslims had been tested by Allah at Uhud and had failed but that Allah forgave them their weakness.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Some of you there are that desire this world,
and some of you there are that desire the next world.
Then He turned you from them, that He might try you; and
He has forgiven you; and Allah is bounteous to the believers.
People living nowadays should learn from the lessons learned by the early Muslims at Uhud. Disobedience to the Prophet (pbuh) and love for the things of this world caused their defeat. The same can happen to us as well. Even if we have no battle like Uhud to fight, we can still die for Allah’s sake by fighting what is bad in ourselves. When the Prophet (pbuh) came back from a battle he said to his men, ‘We have returned from the lesser jihad (struggle) to the greater jihad.’ He meant by this that the struggle that goes on within every human being to become a better person is the more difficult battle.