Reasons for the battle of Uhud:
The Qureshites came out from the Battle of Badr with an astonishing result which they did not expect. They were confident of their capability to annihilate the Muslims easily. Because of they were more numerous and with a bigger reserve and more logistics. Yet, they suddenly found themselves losing seventy of their warriors and leaders, along with seventy captives, in a one-day battle. And above all, the resounding defeat which they received was at the hand of a group whom they used to be little.
The Qureshites were unwilling to admit a final defeat. They lost a battle, but they believed that they would never lose the war. All they needed was to mobilize forces to which the Muslims would not be able to stand. The burning hatred in the hearts of Qureshites and their desire to wash away the shame of the defeat at Badr and their eagerness to avenge their lost leaders added to their physical superiority a tremendous psychological strength.
The Qureshites mobilized for the battle of avenge three thousand fighters compared to nine hundred and fifty fighters at the Battle of Badr. This army was financed and its logistics were secured through the gross income of the commercial caravan which was allotted to the battle of avenge. Thus, the community of Quraish, one year after the Battle of Badr, marched towards Medina to annihilate the Muslims, their religion, and their Prophet. The Meccan army arrived at the area of Uhud which is five miles away from Medina. There, the expected battle took place.
The Uhud region
The big and lengthy valley which joined the trade route of Syria with Yemen is called Wadiul Qura. Different Arab tribes and the Jews took up their abode at a spot where necessities of life were available. A number of villages, therefore, came into existence and their sides were fences by stones. Yathrib (which was later named Madinatur Rasul i.e., city of Prophet) was consider to be center of these villages.
Whoever came from Makkah to Madina was obliged to enter there from the southern side. However, as this region was stony and it was difficult for an army to move into it, the army of Quraysh bent its route and established itself in the north of Madina in the valley named 'Aqiq', situated at the foot of Mt. Uhud. This area was fit for all sorts of military operations as there was no palm-grove in it and the land was also even. Madina was more vulnerable from this side because there were very few natural obstacles in this part.
The Holy Prophet goes out of Madina
The prophet offered Friday prayers and then left Madina for Uhud with an army consisting of one thousand men. He did not take with him persons like Usamah bin Zayd Harith and Abdullah bin Umar on account of their tender age, but two young men named Samurah and Rafe, who were not more than fifteen years of age, participated in the battle, because, in spite of their being young, they were good archers. The Prophet (S.A.W.) reached Uhud in the morning of Saturday, the 7th of Shawwal, 3 AH (January or February 625 AD).
Array of the two armies
The Islamic forces arrayed themselves opposite the invading and aggressive forces of Quraysh (Khalid bin Walid on right, Ikrimah bin Abu Jahl on left, Abu Sufyan in middle). The Muslim army selected as their camping place a point which had a natural barrier and protection at the back of it in the shape of Mt. Uhud. There was, however a particular gap in the middle of the mountain and it was probable that the enemy forces might turn round the mountain and appear at the back of the Muslim army through that gap and might attack them from behind.
In order to obviate this danger the prophet posted two groups of archers on a mount and addressed their Commander Abdullah Jabir in these words: "You should drive away the enemies (which were led by Khalid bin Walid) by shooting arrows. Don't allow them to enter the battlefield from behind and take us by surprise. Whether we are victorious or defeated, you should not vacate this point.
The elements of the Islamic defence
In this second battle of destiny for the Muslims, the Islamic defense consisted of the same three important elements which played their roles at the battle of Badr:
- The ideal leadership of the Messenger and his firmness.
- The members of the house of the Holy Prophet and their heroism.
- An Islamic army consisting of seven hundred companions, the hearts of many of them were filled with faith and readiness for sacrifice.
The start of the Battle of Uhud followed the method of the beginning or the Battle of Badr. Talhah Ibn Abu Talhah (from Banu Abdul-Dar clan), the bearer of the banner or the pagans, challenged the Muslims, saying: "Are there any duelers?" The respondent to his call was the same respondent of the Battle of Badr. Ali came to him and when they faced each other between the two hosts, Ali swiftly dealt him a blow by his sword through which his head was split. The Holy Prophet was pleased. He exclaimed: Allahu Akbar (God Is Great), and so did the Muslims, for the biggest hero of the pagan army had died. It is a noteworthy incident that Talha the first standard bearer of the Meccans lost one of his legs by a stroke of Ali's sword, fell down and his lower garment being loosened, he became naked. Ali, instead of finishing him, turned his face from him and hit him no more. When Prophet asked Ali why he had spared the man, he said the man was nude and entreated for the sake of Allah to spare his life.
Abu Saad Ibn Abu Talhah (brother of Talhah) carried the banner and challenged the Muslims, saying Companions of Mohammad, you allege that your dead go to Paradise and our dead go to Hell. By "Al Lat", you lie. If you were so confident, some of you could have faced me. Let one of you come to fight me. Ref: Dr. M. Haykal, Life of Muhammad, p 289.
Ali came to him and Abu Saad was not luckier than his brother Talhah. The men of Abdul-Dar continued replacing the bearers of their banner with their men, and the Muslims continued annihilating them. Ali destroyed Artat Ibn Sharhabeel, Shureih Ibn Qaridh and their servant, Sawab.
Ali and the banner bearers
However, Ibn Al-Atheer reported that Ali, alone, destroyed all the standard bearers at the Battle of Uhud and said that Abu Rafi reported that. And so did Al-Tabari. Ref: Ibn Al Atheer, Al Kamil, vol 3 p 107
The death of the bearers of the banner heightened the morale of the Muslims and shook the hearts of the pagans. Following the death of the banner bearers, the Muslims undertook a general offensive led by Ali, Al-Hamzah, Abu Dujanh, and others. The Islamic offensive terrified the pagan army, but the Muslims lost during this operation a giant hero Al-Hamzah, Lion of God, and uncle of the Messenger of God. Wahshi bin Harb, an Abyssinian (Ethiopian slave of Mut'am), transfixed him with his dart while he was fighting. However, the pagans were forced to flee and leave their camps. The Muslims entered the pagan camps and went on collecting what they found of equipment and material without meeting any resistance from the pagans.
Who were fighting for the sake of lust?
It is learnt from the verses, which Hind and other women were reciting with tambourines to instigate the warriors of Quraysh and to incite them to blood-shed and revenge, that these people were not fighting for the sake of spirituality, purity, freedom and moral virtues. On the contrary they were prompted by sexual and material consideration. The song which the women sang with tambourine and a particular tune amongst the rows of the army was: "We are the daughters of Tariq. We walk on costly carpets. If you face the enemy we shall sleep with you, but if you show your back to the enemy and flee, we shall disengage ourselves from you".
Defeat after victory
We may mention here as to why the warriors of Islam were victorious. It was due to the fact that till the last moment of their victory they had no motive except that of jihad in the path of Allah, acquisition of His pleasure, conveying the message of Allah and the removal of every impediment in its path.
Why were they defeated thereafter? It was because, after achieving victory, the aim and intention of most of the Muslims underwent a change. Attention towards the booty, which the army of Quraysh had themselves thrown in the battlefield and had fled, affected the sincerity of a large group and they ignored the orders given by the Prophet.
Here are the details of the event: While explaining the geographical conditions of Uhud we had mentioned that there was a particular gap in the middle of Mt. Uhud and the Prophet had entrusted fifty archers under the command of Abdullah Jibir to guard the valley behind the battle front and had given these orders to the commander of the group: "Prevent the enemy from passing through the gap in the mountain by shooting arrows and don't vacate this point at any cost whether we are defeated or victorious".
The fire of warfare blazed up on both the sides. Every time the enemies wished to cross this valley they were repulsed by the archers.
When the army of Quraysh threw away their weapons and property on the ground and ignored everything else to save their lives, a few brave officers of Islam whose oath of allegiance was perfectly sincere pursued the enemy outside the battle-field. But the majority ignored the pursuit and placing their weapons on the ground began collecting the booty and imagined that the battle had come to an end.
The persons guarding the valley behind the battle front also decided to avail of the opportunity and said to themselves: "It is useless for us to stay here and it is profitable that we too should collect the booty". Their commander, however, reminded that the Prophet had ordered that whether the Muslim army gained victory or was defeated they should not move from their post. Majority of the archers, who were guarding the passage, opposed their commander and said: "0ur staying here is useless and the Prophet meant only that we should guard this passage when the battle was in progress, but now the fighting has ended".
On the basis of this false presumption forty men came down from the vigilance post and only ten persons remained there. Khalid bin Walid, who was a brave and experienced warrior and knew from the very start that the mouth of the passage was the key to victory and had attempted many times to reach at the back of the war-front through it, but had to face the archers, took advantage of the small number of the guards this time. He led his soldiers towards the backside of the Muslim army and making a surprise attack reached at the party of the Muslims. The resistance by the small group which was stationed above the mount could not prove effective till all the ten persons after putting up a tough fight were killed at the hands of the troops of Khalid bin Walid and Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl. Soon after that the unarmed and neglectful Muslims were subjected to a severe attack of the enemy from behind.
After having gained possession of the sensitive point Khalid sought the collaboration of the defeated army of Quraysh, which was in a state of flight, and strengthened the spirit of resistance and perseverance of Quraysh with repeated shoutings and cries. On account of disruption and confusion, which prevailed in the ranks of the Muslims, the army of Quraysh soon surrounded the Muslim warriors and fighting commenced between them once again.
This defeat was due to the negligence of those persons who vacated the passage for their material gains and unintentionally cleared the way for the enemy in such a manner that the mounted soldiers under orders of Khalid bin Walid entered the field from behind.
The attack by Khalid was supported by an attack by Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl and unprecedented and surprising disorder prevailed in the forces of Islam. The Muslims had no alternative but to defend themselves as a scattered group. However, as liaison with the command had also been disrupted they did not succeed in defending themselves and suffered heavy casualties, so much so that some Muslim soldiers were inadvertently killed by other Muslims.
The attacks by Khalid and Ikrimah strengthened the morale of the army of Quraysh. Their retreating forces re-entered the field and lent them support. They encircled the Muslims from all sides and killed a number of them.
The rumor about the Prophet being killed spreads
A brave warrior of Quraysh named Laythi attacked Mus'ab bin Umayr, the daring standard-bearer of Islam, and after exchange of a number of blows between them the standard-bearer of Islam was killed. As the Muslim warriors had hidden their faces Laythi thought that the person killed was the Prophet of Islam. He, therefore, shouted and informed the chiefs of the army that Muhammad had been killed.
This rumor spread from man to man in the army of Quraysh. Their chiefs were so happy that their voices were ringing in the battlefield and all of them were saying: "O people! Muhammad has been killed! O people! Muhammad has been killed!"
Publicity of this false news encouraged the enemy and the army of Quraysh came into motion. Every one of them was keen to participate in cutting the limbs of Muhammad so that he might secure a high status in the world of polytheism.
This news weakened the morale of the warriors of Islam much more than it gave strength to the morale of the army of the enemy, so much so that a considerable majority of Muslims abandoned fighting and took refuge in the mountains and none of them, except a few, who could be counted on fingers, remained in the field.
Who remained with the Prophet (s)?
The companions fled away, concerned only with their own safety. History recorded seven exceptional Meccans (Ali, Abu Bakr, Abdul-Rahman Ibn Ouf, Saad Ibn Abu Waqass, Talhah Ibn Obeidah, Al-Zubeir Ibn Al-Awam, Abu Obeidah Ibn Al-Jarrah); And Seven exceptional Medi- nites (Al-Hubab Ibn Al-Munthir, Abu Dujanah, Sahl Ibn Huneif, Assim Ibn Thabit, Saad Ibn Mu ath, As-ad Ibn Hudheir or Saad lbn Abadah and Mohammad Ibn Musli- mah). These men, according to some historians, remained with the Prophet when the other companions deserted him. Ref: Al Waqidi, Al Maghazi (Conveyed by Ibn Abu Al Hadeed in his Commentary on Nahjul Balagha, vol 3 p 388
From what we read in Al-Mustadrak by Al-Hakim, we understand that Ali Ibn Abu Talib was the only defend- er who stayed with the Prophet for the duration of the battle. The other companions who were mentioned to be among those who remained with the Prophet were actually the first ones to come back to the Messenger of God after they left him. Al-Hakim recorded that Ibn Abbas said:
Ali has four distinctions no one shares with him: He was the first male who prayed with the Messenger of God. He was the bearer of his banner in every battle and he was the one who stayed with him at the Battle on the day of Al- Mihras (the Battle of Ohod, where there is gathered water called Al-Mihras ), and he is the one who washed his blessed body and laid him in his tomb. Ref: Al Hakim, al Mustadrak, vol 3 p 111
Al-Hakim reported also that Saad lbn Abu Waqass said: When people left the Messenger on the day of Ohod, I went aside and said to myself I shall defend myself ... then Al-Miqdad told him: "Saad, this is the Messenger." Ref: Al Hakim, al Mustadrak vol 3 p 26-28
Al-Hakim reported also that Al-Zubeir said about the Battle of Ohod, "And they exposed our back to the horse- men, so we were attacked from behind, and a man shouted: Mohammad has been killed. We retreated and the enemies pursued us. Ref: Al Hakim, al Mustadrak, vol 3 p 27-28
He also reported that Abu Bakr said: When people left the Messenger of God on the day of Ohod I was the first one to come back to the Messenger of God ... then he mentioned in the hadith that Abu Obeidah lbn Al-Jarrah followed him." Ref: Al Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, vol 3 p 78
Is it possible to deny the fight of some persons?
It is not possible to deny that some companions fled the field and the fact that they were companions of the Prophet or that later they acquired status and honor amongst the Muslims should not prevent us from accepting this bitter reality.
Ibn Hisham, the famous historian, writes thus: "Anas bin Nazr, the uncle of Anas bin Malik says: "When the army of Islam came under pressure and the news of the death of the Prophet was afloat, most of the Muslims thought of their own lives and every person took refuge in one corner or the other". He adds: "I saw a group of Muhajirs and Ansar, including Umar bin Khattab and Talhah bin Ubaydullah Taymi, who were sitting in a corner and were anxious for themselves. I said to them with a tone of protest: "Why are you sitting here?" They replied, "The Prophet has been killed and it is, therefore, no use fighting". I said to them: "If the Prophet has been killed it is no use living. Get up and meet martyrdom in the same path in which he has been killed".
According to many historians, Anas said: "If Muhammad has been killed his Lord is alive". And then he added: "I saw that my words had no effect on them. I put my hand to my arms and began to fight with determination". Ibn Hisham says that Anas sustained seventy wounds in this battle and none could identify his dead body except his sister.
A group of Muslims were so much depressed that in order to ensure their safety they planned to approach Abdullah Ubayy so that he might obtain security for them from Abu Sufyan.
Al-Hakim reported that Abu Bakr said: "When people left the Messenger of God on the day of Uhud I was the first one to come back to the Messenger of God ... then he mentioned in the hadith that Abu Obeidah lbn Al-Jarrah followed him."
The holy Qur'an reveals some facts
The verses of the Holy Qur'an tear the veils of fanaticism and ignorance and make it abundantly clear that some companions thought that the promise given by the Prophet about victory and success was baseless and the Almighty Allah says thus about this group: Then after sorrow He sent down security upon you, a calm coming upon a party (a group of companions) of you, and (there was) another party whom their own souls had rendered anxious; they entertained about Allah thoughts of ignorance quite unjustly, saying: We have no hand in the affair. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:154)
You can learn the hidden facts about this battle by studying the verses of Surah Al-e-Imran. These verses fully bear out the facts in which we believe. We believe that all the companions were not self-sacrificing or lovers of Islam, and some persons with weak faith were hypocrites who were amongst them. And at the same time there were among the companions a large number of true believers and pious and sincere persons. Nowadays a group of writers attempt to draw a curtain on many of these unworthy acts of the companions (their specimens have been seen by you in connection with the events of this battle). They protect the position of all of them by offering unrealistic explanations, which only show their fanaticism and cannot hide the real facts of history.
Who can deny the substance of this verse which says clearly: (Believers, remember) When you ran off precipitately and did not wait for any one, and the Messenger was calling you from your rear, (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:153)
This verse is about the same persons, who were seen by Anas bin Nazr with his own eyes when they were sitting in a corner and were anxious about their future.
The following verse is more clear than that quoted above: (As for) those of you who turned back on the day when the two armies met, only the Shaitan sought to cause them to make a slip on account of some deeds they had done, and certainly Allah has pardoned them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:155)
Allah reprimands in the following verse those persons who made the news about the Prophet's assassination an excuse for abandoning fight and were thinking of approaching Abu Sufyan through Abdullah bin Ubayy to guarantee their safety:
And Muhammad is no more than a messenger; the messengers have already passed away before him; if then he dies or is killed will you turn back upon your heels? And whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by no means does harm to Allah in the least and Allah will reward the grateful. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:144)
Five persons conspire to kill the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
At the time when the army of Islam was faced with disorder and chaos, the Prophet was being attacked from all sides. Five notorious men of Quraysh determined to put an end to his life at any cost. They were:
- Abdullah bin Shahib who wounded the forehead of the Prophet.
- Utbah Abi Waqqas who, by flinging four stones, broke his ruba'iyat (Ruba'iyat are the teeth (four in number) which are between the front teeth and the canine teeth) teeth of the right side.
- Ibn Qumi'ah Laythi who inflicted a wound on the face of the Prophet. The wound was so severe that the rings of the Prophet's helmet penetrated into his cheeks. These rings were extracted by Abu Ubaydah Jarrah with his teeth and he lost four of his own teeth in doing so.
- Abdullah Hamid, who was killed, at the time of attack, at the hands of the hero of Islam, Abu Dujanah.
- Abi Khalf. He was one of those persons who fell at the hands of the Prophet himself. He faced the Prophet at the time when He (the Prophet) had managed to reach in the valley and some of his companions had come round him, on having identified him. Abi Khalf advanced towards the Prophet. The Prophet took a spear from Hasis bin Simmah and thrust it in the neck of Abi Khalf as a consequence of which he fell down from his horse.
Although the wound sustained by Abi Khalf was minor, he had become so much terrified that when his friends consoled him he could not compose himself and said: "I said to Muhammad in Makkah that I would kill him and he said in reply that he would kill me, and he never tells a lie". All was over with him on account of the wound and fear, and after some time he breathed his last on his way back to Makkah.
Defense associated with success and renewed victory
It will not be inappropriate if we give the name of 'renewed victory' to this part of the history of Islam. What is meant by this victory is that contrary to the expectations of the enemies, the Muslims succeeded in saving the Prophet from death. And this was the renewed victory, which fell to the lot of the army of Islam.
If we are associating this victory with the entire army of Islam we are doing so as a mark of respect to the warriors of Islam. In fact, however, the heavy burden of this victory fell on the shoulders of a few persons who could be counted on fingers. These were the persons who protected the Prophet by risking their own lives and in fact it was due to the self-sacrifice of this minority that the State of Islam remained in tact and this luminous candle did not extinguish.
Here is a brief role of self-sacrificing Ali (A.S.) in this battle
Ibn Athir says: "The Prophet become the object of the attack of various units of the army of Quraysh from all sides. Ali attacked, in compliance with the Prophet's orders, every unit that made an attack upon him (the Prophet) and dispersed them or killed some of them, and this thing took place a number of times in Uhud. In the meantime the Archangel Jibreel came and praised the devotion of Ali before the Prophet and said: 'It is the height of sacrifice which this officer is displaying'. The Prophet confirmed the remark of Jibreel and said: 'I am from Ali and Ali is from me'. Then a voice was heard in the battlefield saying: La Fata Illa Ali, La Saifa Illa Zulfiqar [There is no brave man except Ali and there is no sward which renders service except Zulfiqar (which was in the hands of Ali)].