The Campaign of Uhud

Quraysh's Preparations for Revenge

Ever since the Battle of Badr, Quraysh had not been at ease. The debacle of its al Sawiq campaign and the recent loss of its caravan on the route of al `Iraq to the Muslims under the command of Zayd ibn Harithah had intensified its resentment and bent its mind upon the avenging of Badr. The tribesmen of Quraysh, lords, notables, and noblemen of Makkah, could not forget their fallen brethren. How could they do so while Makkah women were still mourning their sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, and other relatives? Ever since Abu Sufyan ibn Harb reached Makkah with the caravan that had caused the confrontation at Badr, he, together with those who participated in the battle and other notables of Quraysh, such as Jubayr ibn Mut'im, Safwan ibn Umayyah, `Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl, al Harith ibn Hisham, Huwaytib ibn `Abd al `Uzza and others, agreed to deposit the whole caravan in the community house of Makkah (Dar al Nadwah) for public auction so that the proceeds might be used in preparing an army to fight Muhammad. Their plans called for equipping a great strong army and inciting the tribes to join in this war of revenge. They had already incited Abu `Azzah, the poet, a captive of Badr who was forgiven by the Prophet, to defect to their side. Likewise, they invited their Abyssinian clients to join ranks with them. The women of Quraysh, for their part, insisted on accompanying the army in order to witness and to enjoy the revenge. In deliberating whether or not to permit them to do so, some argued that for the women to march alongside the men and sing the songs of war would remind the soldiers of their fallen relatives and further arouse them to fight. Those who argued in this vein were truly desperate, for they were unwilling to return to their homes without either avenging themselves or perishing in the process. Others thought otherwise. Some said, "0 Men of Quraysh, it is not wise to expose your women to your enemies. Since it is not absolutely impossible that you may have to run away for your lives, shame would then befall your women." As the people deliberated, Hind, daughter of 'Utbah and wife of Abu Sufyan said- "Indeed! We shall accompany the army and watch the fighting. None may stand in our way or force us back to our homes as happened at al Juhfah [The locality halfway between Makkah and Madinah on the coastal route.] on that dies nefastus when our beloved ones fell in battle. And on the Day of Badr, had the women been there to witness the soldiers run away from the battle front, this would never have happened." Hind thus attributed the defeat at Badr to the absence of women to arouse their men to sufficient self exertion in battle. Her little speech sealed the argument, and the Quraysh began its march against Muhammad together with the women who were now led by the most resentful woman of all, Hind, who suffered at Badr the loss of two dearest relatives, her father and brother. The Makkan army started off in solemn procession from Dar al Nadwah in three divisions. Only a hundred men were from Thaqif whereas all the others were Makkans and Arab or Abyssinian clients of Makkah equipped with great amounts of armour, two hundred horses, and three thousand camels. They also counted seven hundred men clad in heavy armour.

 

The Makkans' March against Madinah

While all these preparations were taking place with the consent and enthusiasm of everyone, al `Abbas ibn `Abd al Muttalib, the Prophet's uncle, watched from a distance and pondered. Despite his loyalty to the faith of his fathers and the religion of his people, he was moved in his feeling toward Muhammad by a sense of admiration complemented by a feeling of tribal solidarity within him. He recalled how well Muhammad had treated him on the Day of Badr. It was the same sort of admiration and tribal solidarity which had previously moved him to conclude the Great Covenant of al `Aqabah with al Aws and al Khazraj tribes of Madinah, for the purpose of guaranteeing the same safeguard and protection to Muhammad, his nephew, as those which belonged to Madinese women and children. At the time, he warned those tribes that were they ever to falter in providing such protection to his nephew, they should withdraw and give up Muhammad's protection to his own people. The same kind of feeling stirred within him when he saw Quraysh's ubiquitous enthusiasm against Muhammad and when he witnessed this great army marching forward toward Madinah. He wrote a letter describing the whole preparation, military equipment, and number of Makkan soldiers and gave it to a man from Ghifar whom he trusted to deliver to the Prophet in time. Soon, the Quraysh army reached al Abwa' where Aminah, daughter of Wahb and mother of Muhammad, was buried. Some Makkans thought of digging up her grave. However, their leaders stopped them, fearful last they set a precedent among the Arabs, and recalling that the Muslims too could retaliate with the Makkans' own dead buried in their vicinities. Upon arrival at the locality of al `Aqiq, the Makkan army camped at the foot of Mount Uhud, five miles from Madinah.

 

Al `Abbas's Message to the Prophet

The man from Ghifar, carrying the letter of al `Abbas ibn `Abd al Muttalib, arrived at Madinah and found that Muhammad was at Quba'. There he proceeded; and, upon meeting Muhammad at the door of the mosque when he was just about to leave, handed over the letter to him. The message was read for Muhammad by Ubayy ibn Ka'b who was then asked to keep its contents secret. Muhammad proceeded to Madinah and called upon Sa'd ibn al Rabi` at his home, told him the content of the message, and asked him to keep it secret. Sa`d's wife, however, who was at home at the time overheard the conversation and the matter could no longer remain secret. Muhammad then sent Anas and Mu'nis, the two sons of Fadalah, to reconnoiter the movements of Quraysh. They found out that the army had approached Madinah and let its horses and camels loose to graze in the plantations surrounding the city. Muhammad then sent another scout, al Hubab ibn al Mundhir ibn al Jamuh. When enough information had reached him to confirm the news his uncle had sent, Muhammad became gravely concerned and perplexed. Salamah ibn Salamah reported thereafter that the Quraysh cavalry was coming closer and closer to Madinah and that they were about to enter the city. He rushed to his people and warned them of the imminent danger. All the inhabitants of Madinah were apprehensive due to the descriptions of the might and equipment of the enemy. Their Muslim leaders even saw fit to guard the person of the Prophet with their own swords throughout the night. Sentries were posted at all corners of the city. When morning came, the Prophet called upon all Muslims, whether sincere or insincere[The Qur'an called the insincere Muslims "munafiqun" or pretenders. -Tr.], for a public consultation on the fate of the city and the means by which they should meet the enemy.

 

Varying Opinions on Madinah's Defense

The Prophet-may God's blessing be upon him!-suggested that the Muslims should hold fast to Madinah, reinforce themselves therein, and keep out the Quraysh. Should the enemy decide to attack, the Muslims would fight from within and, knowing their own ground, should be better able to repulse the enemy. `Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul agreed with the Prophet and added: "Prophet of God, in the past we always fought our enemies in Madinah by placing our women and children safely in the upper stories of the houses and building walls connecting one house with another on the perimeter of the city, thus making the town a single fortress. When the enemy advanced on us, the women and children would hit them with stones with which they had been amply provided while we would meet them with our swords in the streets. Our city, O Prophet of God, has never been violated by an enemy because none has ever entered it without meeting defeat. On the other hand, we have never met an enemy outside our city without loss to ourselves. Please listen to me in this matter and follow this wise plan which I inherited from the greatest leaders and wise men of Madinah who have gone before."

The Prophet as well as the prominent among the Prophet's companions, whether Muhajirun or Ansar, agreed with this view. However, the young Muslims who had not participated in Badr, as well as others who had witnessed Badr but became thereafter convinced that Muslim power was invincible, desired to go out of Madinah and meet the enemy wherever he might be. They were disturbed by the idea that unless they spoke to this effect, they might be suspected of cowardice. They argued that since the enemy was not too far from Madinah, the Muslims would be stronger than at Badr when they fought many miles away from their people and land. An advocate of this view said

"I hate to see the Quraysh return to Makkah saying that they have locked up Muhammad in the houses and buildings of Yathrib and have prevented him and his companions from going out. Such talk would undoubtedly incite the Quraysh to further acts of aggression. Now that they have entered our very orchards and plantations, shown off their numbers and strength, and incited the Arab tribes and Abyssinian clients to follow them, how could we allow them to blockade us in our own homes and let them return without injury? Should we do that, they would surely return to raid our frontiers, to blockade us again, and to cut off our roads to the outside world." A number of other speakers spoke in favor of going out to meet the enemy, arguing that in case God gave them victory they would have met their objective. This would be a substantiation of the promise which God made to His Prophet. On the other hand, should they be defeated and die, they would have fallen as martyrs and would have won Paradise.

 

Call to Bravery and Martyrdom

This bold talk about bravery and martyrdom moved every Muslim heart and incited the community as a whole to spring to its feet in enthusiasm over a prospect of fighting in God's cause. With their eyes on Muhammad, their hearts filled with faith in God, in His Prophet, Book, and Judgment, the image of their victory over this aggressive force standing out to attack them dissipated every other idea. They began to imagine themselves marching deep within enemy ranks, cutting them down with their swords and seizing their booty. The picture of paradise hovering before their eyes as martyrs in God's cause was just as the Qur'an had described it. It was a garden replete with everything desirable and beautiful where they would be reunited with the martyrs of Badr who preceded them, therein to dwell eternally, and "where there is neither gossip nor accusation and where every conversation is a talk of peace"[Qur'an, 56:25-26]. At this juncture, Khaythamah Abu Sa'd ibn Khaythamah said: "Perhaps, God will give us victory over them, or our turn will be one of martyrdom. Despite my great desire to be at Badr, it was not my fortune to go, but my son's. God was pleased to grant him his martyrdom. Last night, I saw him in a dream calling to me, `Hurry up, Father, and join us in Paradise, for here I have truly found everything that God had promised me.' By God, Prophet, of God, I now long to join my son in Paradise. I am advanced in years and my hair has turned gray. Surely do I yearn to meet my Lord." Overwhelmed by this and similar speeches, the Muslims present inclined toward going out to meet the enemy. Muhammad nonetheless advised against it, as if apprehensive of what it was to bring. But everybody insisted, and he had to agree with them. Community consensus and decision had always been his system of worldly government, and he departed from it only in case of a direct revelation to the contrary.

 

Discipline and Mutual Consultation

The day was a Friday. Muhammad led the prayer and informed the congregation that their victory depended on their patience and careful preparation for war. After the mid-afternoon prayers, he returned home with Abu Bakr and `Umar, who helped him put on his armour and handed to him his sword. In the meantime, the people were waiting outside and arguing with one another. Usayd ibn Hudayr and Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, who had argued in favor of remaining in Madinah, addressed the people in these words: "You must have noticed that the Prophet was of the opinion that we should remain in Madinah and meet our enemy here. In saying what you did, you dissuaded him from this position against his will. Had you not better delegate the matter to him entirely, follow his verdict, and obey him?" The protagonists of the opposite view were suddenly struck by the idea that they might have opposed the Prophet in a matter in which God might have guided him. When he came out of his house wearing his armour and carrying his sword, they came to him pleading that they did not mean to disagree with him. They declared themselves prepared to abide by his and God's judgment whatever that may be. Muhammad answered: "I have previously called you to follow such a course but you resisted. The Prophet is not one to put away his armour and sword once he puts them on until God's judgment is rendered between him and his enemies. Obey me henceforth. Victory will be yours provided you bear yourselves in patience." Thus, besides the principle of consensus, Muhammad placed order at the foundation of government. Once the community has made up its mind after due deliberation, it should not alter it in haste, but endeavor resolutely to see through. It is then the responsibility of its executive to see to it that the course followed does indeed accomplish the objective sought.

 

The Muslims' March

Muhammad set out at the head of his force in the direction of Uhud. His first stop was at a locality called al Shaykhan where he met a group of people unknown to him and who, upon inquiry, turned out to be the Jewish allies of ibn Ubayy. The Prophet ruled that unbelievers may not be taken as allies against unbelievers unless they become Muslims. The Jewish column therefore was commanded to return to Madinah. The friends of ibn Ubayy began to whisper in his ear that Muhammad had slighted him by disregarding the ancestral wisdom which he had put at the disposal of Muhammad but which the latter had rejected in favor of the childish views of the Muslims. Soon ibn Ubayy became convinced that the Muslims were following the wrong course and returned with his own men to Madinah. The sincere believers who remained with the Prophet numbered seven hundred as against the three thousand Makkan fighters of the Quraysh tribe.

 

Ordering the Ranks for Battle

The Muslim force reached Uhud toward the morning. They crossed the valleys and ascended over dunes. Muhammad ordered his companions in rows and placed fifty archers on the side of the mountain. Fearing that the enemy might surprise the Muslims from the rear, he ordered the archers to protect that side under all circumstances. Specifically, he commanded them never to leave their place regardless of whether the Muslims plunged into the enemy camp and won, or fell in their places at the hand of the enemy. Should the enemy cavalry charge, it was the duty of the archers to repel that charge with arrows. He commanded everyone not to begin the fight except on his command, but he ordered the archers to attack the enemy on sight and before he reached Muslim ranks.

 

Quraysh Women

Quraysh, too, ordered its forces in rows, placing Khalid ibn al Walid on the right and `Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl on the left. They gave the command to `Abd al Uzza Talhah ibn Abu Talhah. The women were running back and forth between the lines of the fighters striking their drums and tamburines and, led by Hind, daughter of `Utbah and wife of Abu Sufyan, sang:

"Ho Ho, Sons of `Abd al Dar ! Ho Ho, Guardians of the land! Strike down your enemies! Advance forward and we shall embrace you! Advance forward and we shall spread the carpets for you! Turn your backs and we shall avoid you! Turn your backs and we shall never come to you!"

 

Abu Dujanah and His Death-Scarf

Thus the two parties were poised for battle and the leaders aroused their own men to fight, the Quraysh by summoning the memory of Badr and its victims, the Muslims by remembering God and the promise of His victory. Muhammad raised his sword in front of his companions and invited them to come forward to get it provided they could fulfill one condition. A number of them rushed to him but were sent back. Abu Dujanah Simak ibn Kharashah, brother of Banu Sa'idah, rose and asked, "What is the provision, 0 Prophet of God?" The Prophet answered, "That you continue to strike the enemy with it until it breaks." Abu Dujanah was a very brave man who had a red scarf which, as everybody knew, signaled that he was bent on fighting until victory or death. As he drew this scarf and wrapped it around his head, the Prophet gave him the sword. He took it and started to dance in joy between two rows of fighters, as he was wont to do before entering into battle. When Muhammad saw him perform this dance, he said that "Such would be hateful to God except under the circumstances."

Abu `Amir, slave of `Amr ibn Sayfi al Awsi, was the first to start the hostilities. Previously, he had moved from Madinah to Makkah in order to arouse the Quraysh to fight Muhammad. He had not witnessed the Battle of Badr. Anxious not to miss this time, he came to Uhud with a retinue of soldiers consisting of fifteen al Aws tribesmen and a number of slaves from Makkah. Once he claimed that he could persuade his fellow tribesmen who converted to Islam to fight with Quraysh against Muhammad. Putting this large claim to the test, he called to them and announced his identity. But his tribesmen replied with curses and damnations. Infuriated at the result, he approached Muslim ranks and started to fight. To the left, `Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl with a company of slaves attempted to penetrate Muslim lines at the flank. The Muslims met them with stones and caused them to withdraw. At this moment, Hamzah ibn `Abd al Muttalib gave the war cry, "Die! Die!" and sprang forward into the thick of the Quraysh lines. Talhah ibn Abu Talhah, carrier of the Makkan flag, sprang forward asking the Muslims to duel with him. 'Ali ibn Abu Talib advanced forth to fight with him. The encounter was soon over as 'Ali struck his enemy a single fatal stroke. Exalted, the Prophet and the Muslims yelled, "God is Great," and advanced for the general charge. Abu Dujanah, with the Prophet's sword in hand and its head wrapped in the "scarf of death," as he called it, killed everyone with whom he fought. He saw one Makkan fighting a Muslim with his fingernails. As he prepared to deal with him, he discovered that it was a woman and that it was Hind, daughter of `Utbah. He immediately withdrew and saved the Prophet's sword from ever touching a woman's blood.

 

The Martyrdom of Hamzah

The Quraysh forces advanced ferociously, and the general melee between the disproportionately balanced forces began. The larger army was motivated by resentment and a consuming will to vengeance; the smaller by its faith in God and His religion and the will to defend its homeland as well as its interests. Those who sought revenge surpassed them in number and equipment. They were heartened and cheered by the women, each of whom promised one soldier or another her most precious possessions if he could only avenge for her previous loss of her father or brother, husband, or relative. Hamzah ibn `Abd al Muttalib was one of the greatest and most courageous of Arab heroes. At Badr, it was he who killed `Utbah, father of Hind, as well as her brother and a number of other close relatives of hers. True to his reputation, Hamzah distinguished himself in battle on the Day of Uhud. He killed Artat ibn `Abd Shurahbil, Siba` ibn `Abd al `Uzza al Ghubshani, and a number of others. His sword seemed invincible. Hind had promised Wahshi, the Abyssinian client of Jubayr, a great amount of wealth should he succeed in killing Hamzah. To encourage him further, Jubayr ibn Mut'am, his master whose uncle was also killed at Badr, promised Wahshi his freedom if he succeeded. The story following was later told by Wahshi : "I set out among others, planning to fight with my javelin as all Abyssinians do, for I hardly ever miss my objective with it. When the great encounter took place, I looked around for Hamzah and caught him with my eyes. I saw him right in the middle of the melee, standing out as clearly as a black camel in the herd and felling everybody around him with his sword. I swung my javelin and, making sure it was well balanced, I threw it at him and it fell right on him hitting him in the abdomen and piercing him through. I left my javelin and its victim pinned down under it until he died. Later on I came to him and pulled my javelin away and returned then to the camp and fought no longer. I had killed him in order to win my liberty, and that I had now achieved. When I returned to Makkah, my manumission was officially recognized."

Those in the Muslim camp fell into two categories: The sincere Muslims and the munafiqun. The prototype of the latter was Quzman, who joined Islam but never really believed in it. When the Muslim army left Madinah, Quzman refused to march. The next morning the women of Banu Zafar began to shame him for his cowardice. "0 Quzman," they said to him, "have you lost your sense of shame or have you become a woman to stay behind while all the men are out fighting?" Incensed, Quzman went to his home, put on his armour, bow, arrows and sword, and set out to join the Prophet's army. He was known to be a brave soul. When he arrived on the scene, he found the Prophet ordering the ranks of the Muslim soldiers. He went straight through to the first row and was the first to throw himself into the battle. He shot his arrows and pierced many an enemy's chest. Toward the end of the day, he was still determined to fall fighting, and he continued to fight until he did. He killed seven of the enemy in one short hour in addition to all the others whom he had killed with his arrows. Passing by him and finding him about to die, Abu al Ghaydaq congratulated him on his achievement of martyrdom. Quzman answered, "0 Abu `Amir, I have not really fought for the faith. I have fought only in order to prevent Quraysh from invading our territory and violating our homes and properties. By God, I fought only in order to protect my people and my land. Without those I would never have done it."

The other group were the true believers. They were not over seven hundred strong and they faced three thousand of the enemy. What has so far been said concerning the deeds of Hamzah and Abu Dujanah reveals an idea of the power of Muslim morale. This was a power before which the soldiers of Quraysh reeled like worms, despite all the courage and heroism for which they were famous throughout Arabia. Their flag was carried so proudly that none would allow it to lay fallen; and as soon as it fell, another soldier would raise it anew. When 'Ali ibn Abu Talib killed its carrier, Talhah ibn Abu Talhah, it was immediately raised again by `Uthman ibn Abu Talhah. And when `Uthman fell at the hands of Hamzah, it was raised again by Abu Sa'd ibn Abu Talhah. At the moment he raised the Makkan flag he shouted at the Muslims, "Do you pretend that your martyrs are in paradise and ours in hell? By God, you lie! If anyone of you truly believes such a story, let him come forward and fight with me." His challenge attracted Ali [According to another version, it was Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas that was so attracted.] who killed him on the spot. The Banu `Abd al Dar kept on carrying the Makkan flag until they lost nine men. The last of them was Su'ab, the Abyssinian slave of Banu `Abd al Dar, whose right hand carrying the flag was struck by the aforementioned Quzman. Su'ab seized the flag and raised it high with the left arm. Quzman struck it with his sword again. Having lost both arms, Su'ab now seized the flag and pressed it to his chest with whatever was left of his arms and even bent his back to support it while saying "0 Banu `Abd al Dar, have I not done my duty?" Either Quzman or Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas killed him. When all the party in charge of the Makkan flag were decimated, the Makkan associationists realized their defeat and began to run for their lives. Even their women were now exposed, and the statue which they had brought with them on camel back to bless them had now fallen to the ground and was broken.

 

Muslim Victory on the Morning of Uhud

Actually, the victory the Muslims achieved on that morning was a genuine war miracle. Some may attribute it to the sound judgment of Muhammad in placing the archers on the mountain side so that they could hit the enemy cavalry before they could reach the Muslim lines while at the same time protecting the rear of all Muslim forces. Muhammad's good judgment is undoubtedly true. But it is equally true that when six hundred Muslims threw themselves against an enemy force five times greater than theirs, they could not possibly have done so and achieved such bravery unless their deeds sprang from t heir candid faith in the righteousness of their own cause. Whoever believes in the cause of truth is not bothered by the material preponderance of any power, however great, and his will would not be shaken even if all the forces of evil rallied against him. Sincere faith in God Almighty is the greatest power, the greatest idea. It is invincible. As long as its subject remains sincere and loyal to it, there is no doubt that sincere faith must obtain all it wills. Therefore, Quraysh was shattered and defeated with all its three thousand fighters by the six hundred Muslims. That is why the women of Quraysh were about to be taken captive. When the Muslims followed up their enemies far from the battlefield, those who remained fell upon the large booty left behind. Indeed, many Muslims were thus drawn away from pursuing the defeated enemy.

 

The Muslims' Preoccupation with Booty

The archers whom Muhammad had commanded not to leave the mountainside even to rescue the Prophet and his companions from what might seem to them to be certain death watched the battle from their height, and saw the defeated enemy running away and the pursuing Muslims seizing the booty. This whetted their appetites. For a moment, they argued with one another in seeking to convince themselves that no purpose would be served by keeping their position now that God had defeated their enemy. As they watched their fellow Muslims gather the booty, they strongly felt like joining them. When a wiser voice reminded them that the Prophet had commanded them not to leave their position even for rescuing the Muslims from certain death, they rationalized that he had not intended for them to remain in their positions that long, certainly not after the defeat of the enemy. `Abdullah ibn Jubayr advised them not to violate the Prophet's commandment whatever the circumstances. The majority did not heed his advice, however, but descended to the plain. Ten men only kept their ground. This provided Khalid ibn al Walid, Commander of the Makkan cavalry, the golden opportunity to attack and seize the mountainside where the archers were. He eliminated the remainder of the Muslim archers and occupied the mountainside. The other Muslims were not aware of what was happening, preoccupied as they were in gathering everything of value on the field. After he occupied the mountainside, ibn al Walid signaled to the Quraysh to attack again and he advanced upon the Muslims from the rear. The defeated Makkans rallied to his call, turned about and resumed the fighting. The Muslims dropped the booty they carried, drew their swords and defended themselves. But their victory was lost. Their ranks were disorderly and their unity was in shreds. Quraysh took a heavy toll of Muslim lives. Earlier, the Muslims were fighting by the command of God and out of their faith in Him and in victory; now they fought in order to save their own lives from certain death and humiliation. Earlier, the Muslims were fighting in a united and orderly manner, under a strong and resolute leadership; now they fought without order or leadership. So great was the disorder that some may have struck their own fellows. Finally, when somebody raised the cry that Muhammad was killed, chaos reined supreme, Muslim morale plunged to the bottom and Muslim soldiers fought sporadically and purposelessly. This chaos was responsible for their killing of Husayl ibn Jabir Abu Hudhayfah by mistake, as everyone sought to save his own skin by taking flight except such men as 'Ali ibn Abu Talib whom God had guided and protected.

 

The Prophet's Injury

When the Quraysh heard of the fall of Muhammad, their forces fell upon Muslim ranks with renewed vigor. Every one of them was seeking to hit Muhammad, even if dead, that he might have the honor and pride of having participated in his downfall. The Muslims who stood close to the Prophet protected him and drew a close circle around him. Their faith had come back to them and they now stood their ground anxious to lay down their lives in order to save their Prophet. The fact is that one of the stones thrown by the Quraysh had hit the Prophet and caused him to fall to the ground, with a cut lip, a wounded face, and a broken tooth. The stone that hit the Prophet was thrown by `Utbah ibn Abu Waqqas. It landed with such force that it pushed two links of Muhammad's helmet chain into his wound. Muhammad attempted to stand up behind a shield of his companions, but he fell again, this time in a hole which Abu `Amir had dug as a trap for the Muslims. `Ali ibn Abu Talib ran to Muhammad and gave him his hand and, together with Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah, lifted him again to his feet. He and his .companions then began to retreat toward the mountain of Uhud while fighting their pursuing enemies.

 

Desperate Defense of the Prophet's Person

In a moment, however, a number of other Muslims joined the circle of the Prophet, and these were so determined and desperate in their defense that they formed an impregnable barrier between the Prophet and the enemy. Umm `Amarah al Ansariyyah, the Madinese, had been on the battlefield since the morning to give water to the Muslim fighters to drink. When the Muslims suffered defeat, she threw down her water jug, drew her sword, and joined the other fighters around the Prophet for his protection. She shot a number of arrows until she herself was wounded. Abu Dujanah placed himself as a shield before the Prophet and even exposed his back to the falling arrows lest they should hit the Prophet. Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas shot arrows which Muhammad passed to him while lending him encouragement. A little earlier, Muhammad himself was using his bow and shot at the enemy until the string of his bow broke. Those who thought that Muhammad had perished, including Abu Bakr and `Umar, went toward the mountain and sat down. When Anas ibn al Nadr inquired why they were giving up so soon, and was told that the Prophet of God had been killed, he retorted: "And what would you do with yourselves and your lives after Muhammad died? Rise, and die like he did." He turned, charged against the enemy, and fought gallantly. He kept on fighting despite his wounds and did not give up until he was hit seventy times. His body was so torn up with wounds that only his sister could identify it by means of his fingers alone.

 

The Prophet's Escape

Quraysh took the news of Muhammad's death with exhilaration and joy, and Abu Sufyan began a search for his body on the battlefield. The Muslims around Muhammad did not deny the news of his death in obedience to Muhammad's own commandment designed to prevent any new onslaught by the Quraysh against him. Ka'b ibn Malik, however, came close to the circle and, bending himself over Abu Dujanah, noticed that the Prophet was there and still alive. He proclaimed at the top of his voice: "O Believers, be glad, for the Prophet of God is here and still alive." The Prophet, however, asked him to keep quiet. The Muslims then reinforced the protective circle around the Prophet and moved with him farther up toward the mountain; they were led by Abu Bakr, `Umar, 'Ali ibn Abu Talib, al Zubayr ibn al `Awwam and others. The cry of Ka'b brought about a different effect upon the Quraysh. Most of the latter did not believe it but regarded it as an enemy trick designed to rally the Muslims to fight again. A few Makkans ran toward the Muslims shouting, "Where is Muhammad? Death to me if he lives!" The Prophet hurled the javelin of al Harith ibn al Simmah at the oncoming party. It hit the leader, threw him off his horse, and killed him. When the Muslims reached the entrance to the valley on the other side, 'Ali filled his shield with water, washed Muhammad's face and poured some water on his head. Abu `Ubaydah ibn al Jarrah pulled out the two links of chain from Muhammad's wound, and his two front teeth fell off in the process. While this was taking place, Khalid ibn al Walid pursued the Muslims on the hillside with a small force of Makkan cavalry. But they were repelled by `Umar ibn al Khattab and a number of the Prophet's companions. The Muslims continued their retreat. So great was their exhaustion that when it was noon, the Prophet led the prayer seated, suffering as he was from his wounds, and the Muslims prayed behind him seated also.

 

Mutilation of the Muslim Dead

Quraysh was intoxicated with her victory and deemed her vengeance for Badr fully taken. The occasion gave Abu Sufyan such cause for pride that he said, "A great day was won against the day of Badr. Next year will see the same." His wife Hind, daughter of `Utbah, was not satisfied with this victory. Nor was she satisfied with the death of Hamzah ibn `Abd al Muttalib. With her women companions she ~ ran toward the battlefield and began the mutilation of the Muslim dead. She cut off a number of noses and ears in order to make a string and a necklace of them. She then cut the body of Hamzah open and pulled out his liver which she began to chew. These ugly deeds of hers and of her women companions were so unbecoming that even Abu Sufyan, her husband, denounced her. He said to one of the Muslims: "Your dead were indeed mutilated; but I swear by God that I have never approved of such deeds. How can I be accused of commanding them?"

 

Muhammad's Mourning of Hamzah

The Quraysh returned to Makkah after burying their dead. The Muslims returned to the battlefield to bury theirs, and Muhammad sought out the body of his uncle, Hamzah. When he saw that his body was mutilated, Muhammad felt profoundly sad and vowed that he would never allow such a hateful thing to happen again and that he would someday avenge these evil deeds. It was on this occasion that the revelation was made

"And if you punish, inflict the same punishment as has been meted out to you. But if you bear patiently, it is certainly better for you. Do bear then patiently; for the reward of your patience is with God. Do not feel sad nor give way to anger because of their plotting."[Qur'an, 16:126-127]

The Prophet of God then pardoned, bore patiently, and laid down an absolute prohibition against mutilation. Hamzah was given burial on the spot where he lay, Muhammad conducting the funerary prayer and Hamzah's sister, Safiyyah, daughter of `Abd al Muttalib, participating. All prayed for God to show them His mercy. The Prophet then commanded burial for all the dead, which numbered seventy; and, when this was completed, he led his party back to Madinah. The Muslims were quite sad and solemn for having encountered such defeat after their victory, and such humiliation after their splendid accomplishment. They fully realized that it was the archers' disobedience of Muhammad as well as the Muslims' preoccupation with booty that had exposed them to this sad turn of events.

 

Need for Recapturing the Lost Prestige

The Prophet went home and thought deeply. The Jews, the munafiqun, and the associationists of Madinah were elated at the news of the setback. Muslim power in Madinah had been such that none could effectively oppose it. Now it stood ready to be shaken. `Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul did not participate in the Battle of Uhud because Muhammad as well as the Muslims did not wish to ~ listen to his advice. Moreover, Muhammad declared himself angry against `Abdullah's clients, the Jews. Were this setback at Uhud the last judgment on the Muslims vis-a-vis the Quraysh, the fate of Muhammad and his companions would have been easily disposed of by the tribesmen of the Peninsula, and their political power in Yathrib would have crumbled. The Muslims would have become objects of universal derision. In such circumstances, the associationists and pagans would surely have been emboldened to attack the religion of God, and that would have been the greatest tragedy. It was necessary, therefore, to direct some strike against the enemy in order to offset the defeat of Uhud and to recapture Muslim morale as well as to instill fear in the hearts of the Jews and the munafiqun. Such a measure was necessary if the political power of Muhammad and his companions in Yathrib was to regain its strength.

 

Resumption of Fighting on the Morrow

On the morrow, which fell on Sunday the 16th of Shawwal, the mu'adhdhin of the Prophet called upon the Muslims to regroup and pursue the enemy. Only those who had participated in the previous day's battle were, however, allowed to proceed. When the Muslims set out toward the Makkan force, Abu Sufyan immediately learned that his enemies had returned from Madinah with new reinforcements. Muhammad reached Hamra' al Asad while Abu Sufyan and his companions were still at al Rawha'. Since he passed by both camps, Ma'bad al Khuza`i, who was still an associationist, was asked by Abu Sufyan about Muhammad and his forces. He replied that "Muhammad and his companions are coming after you with such a large army that I have never seen the like of it. Those who were not present yesterday are all with him today shouting with anger and seeking revenge." Abu Sufyan, on the other hand, though he wanted to run away from any more confrontations with Muhammad, pondered the consequences of such a flight. Would not the Arabs say of Quraysh in such an eventuality what he himself would have liked to say of Muhammad and his companions? But then, were he to return to Muhammad and the Muslims defeat them this time, would not the Quraysh be destroyed once and for all? He therefore made recourse to a trick. With some riders of `Abd al Qays proceeding to Madinah, he sent a message to Muhammad that the Quraysh had decided to pursue the Muslims in order to finish them off. When this message reached Muhammad at Hamra' al Asad, his will and determination remained constant and his decision unchanged. The whole Muslim force, which remained in place for three days and three nights, made large bonfires during the night in order to show the world that they were there to stay. Finally, disagreeing with Abu Sufyan, the Quraysh preferred to save the memory of their victory of Uhud and to return to Makkah. Thereafter, Muhammad returned to Madinah with more confidence in Muslim power, though the insincere believers began to raise their heads in derision of the Muslims and asked

"If the battle of Badr was a sign from God proving the veracity of Muhammad's prophethood, what was the sign of the battle of Uhud ?"[Significantly, this is the same question which Western Islamicist Wilfred Cantwell Smith thinks confutes Muslims in modern times because of its novelty. See his Islam in Modern History, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1957, ch. II, where he argues that the view that Islam's movement in history is God willed and God-incepted-such as Islam holds-leads in case of frustration, loss or defeat, to the absurdity either that God's will is being frustrated or that the movement in question is not God-willed. Smith omits here to consider that the unfolding of God's will in history is, in Islam, not the working of blind necessity but that of free men whose responsible decisions are the very stuff of divine will, so that defeat or victory are attributable to them rather than to God. It was this moralism of the Muslims that saved them after their defeat at Uhud and at the hands of Crusaders and Tatars in the Middle Ages. And it is likely to save them, too, after their defeat by an imperialist West in modern times. -Tr.]