JAVAID AHMAD WAGAY
At Badr took place the first major encounter between the newly-born nation of Muslims and the unbelievers (Kaafireen), the Quraish of Makkah. This event changed the course of history of not only Arabia but of the entire world. At the dawn of Islam in Makkah, Muslims were killed, tortured, and persecuted. Eventually, they were expelled, while some fled their homes and took refuge elsewhere. This is happening again today as Muslims are persecuted, even massacred, their homes and homelands destroyed and the survivors driven out as refugees. But the history of Badr tells us that it is the oppressed who conquer the oppressors in the end! That’s how Allah counters injustice, persecution, aggression, corruption, oppression and inequality.
The Battle of Badr has been referred to in the Holy Quran as “Day of Furqaan”. The Arabic word ‘furqaan’ means to separate or to distinguish. It was the 17th day of Ramadan, in the 2nd year of Hijrah (7th of March, 623 A.D., some put it as March 17, 624 A.D.) when the Almighty Allah separated/ distinguished Truth from Falsehood, Light from Darkness. He gave the believers a great victory and vanquished the aspirations of the disbelievers who wanted to wipe out Islam at a time when it had started gaining popularity. Muslims were a tiny minority and were constantly persecuted by the politically powerful and financially strong Quraish. A few days before Ramadan, reports reached Madinah that a trade caravan of Quraish was returning to Makkah from Syria. The caravan was carrying not only merchandise but also weapons. It was estimated that the caravan had made a profit of 50,000 Dinars (pieces of gold). The weapons and the huge amount of money were to be used to equip an army to fight against Muslims. The caravan was led by Abu Soufyan, a Makkan stalwart and staunch enemy of Muslims at that time.
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), after consultation with his companions, decided to intercept the caravan. He appointed Abu Lababa as Governor of Madinah, and left the city for Badr, a village in the south-west of Madinah. It was the 8th of Ramadan. Scholars differ about the exact number of Muslims (ranging from 305 to 319) but most of them agree on 313. About 80-90 of them were from Makkah (‘Muhajireen’) and the rest were ‘Ansar’ (locals) of Madinah. They took up position in a valley which was known for its water wells. They took control of a strategic well/water reservoir and blocked off some other wells. The enemy had to cross the valley, in front of Muslims, to reach the water wells.
The poor Muslims had no clue that they would never see the Quraish caravan, but instead have an encounter with a 1000-strong Quraish army of Makkah.
The Muhajireen (refugees or emigrants) were victims of oppression who had been expelled by the Quraish leaders of Makkah. They were also forced to leave behind family members, their homes, properties and cattle/camel herds. They arrived in Madinah empty-handed. The Makkans confiscated their properties and cattle/camel herds. Muslims suffered the worst kind of persecution at the hands of Quraish of Makkah for 13 long years.
Eventually, when Allah’s permission came and Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) told the Muslims that they were allowed to fight back, they were looking for an opportunity to recover their losses. But Allah had a different plan for them.
Abu Soufyan somehow got information about the ambush and changed the route, but at the same time he sent a message to Makkah leaders to come to his rescue. The Quraish leaders of Makkah decided to teach Muslims a lesson. They sent an army of 1000 fighters equipped with 100 horses, 700 camels laden with war material and other supplies, and bands of chanters/drum-beaters.
Muslims, on the other hand, were not prepared for any armed confrontation as they did not have the means for it. The 313-men contingent had only two horses and 70 camels and little or no war equipment. Some of them had swords but no shields. To reach the valley near Badr, they had to walk or share the ride by two or three.
When the Quraish army reached Badr, they received a message from Abu Soufyan that the caravan had safely passed the region, therefore, they could return to Makkah. Abu Jahl was an arrogant leader of the Quraish. He refused to return to Makkah without victory. A Muslim patrol party captured a waterman who confessed that he was part of the group supplying water to the Makkah army. When Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) heard that the Quraish of Makkah had dispatched an army of 1000 men and they were just on the other side of the hill, he got worried and called a meeting to decide what to do next.
Muslims were a little worried and the Prophet (s.a.w.) kept invoking Allah. Later, he addressed them and while giving glad tiding of a victory, said:
“Allah has promised you one of the two, either the caravan or the army”.
Subhan-Allah! That’s how Allah works! The poor Muslims wanted to capture the trade caravan with its expensive merchandise and camels/horses and be content with it. But the army of the Quraish of Makkah the Muslims could not even dream of facing at that stage, let alone capturing or conquering it! The Makkans were considered the richest and the strongest people in the region. But Allah was on the side of the Muslims.
On the night before the battle, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) made a very long and intense supplication (‘dua’) to Allah. He prayed under a tree until the sun rose. Then he stood up, raised his hands toward heavens, and said:
“O Allah! I invoke You for Your promise of victory.
Here come Quraish full of vanity and pride. They
Oppose You and call Your Messenger a liar. O Allah!
If You decide that we be defeated today, and if this little
band of your believers perishes today, there would be
none left in the land to worship You!”
At that particular time, those 300-plus people were the only Muslims on the face of the earth and in the case of a defeat, they would be wiped out. When Abu Bakr (r.a.a.) saw this, he came to console the Prophet (s.a.w.). He held the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) hand in his hand and said: “That’s enough! Allah will certainly fulfil His promise He made to you.”
Allah’s re-assurance came and Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) felt the peace and confidence to stand up to the challenge facing them.
The night before the battle, while Muslims slept, a heavy rain fell. On the morning of Friday, the 17th of Ramadan, 2 A.H., the two armies advanced and drew closer to each other. The battle started in the Arab tradition with the big warriors of Quraish, like Walid Ibn Utba, Utba Ibn Rabia, and Shaiba, coming out and challenging the opposition for duals. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) sent his uncle Hamza (r.a.a.), his cousin Ali (r.a.a.) and his companion Ubaida (r.a.a.). They killed the Quraish heroes, sending a wave of terror through the ranks of the Makkans. Ubaida (r.a.a.) was fatally wounded though and died later (being the first martyr of Badr). Then the troops attacked each other in regular fighting. By noon, the battle was over as Makkans fled the scene leaving dead bodies and material behind.
Nicholson writes: “But the importance of Mohammed’s success (in the battle of Badr) cannot be measured by the material damage which he inflicted (upon the pagans of Mecca). Considering the momentous issues involved, we must allow that Badr, like Marathon, is one of the greatest and most memorable battles in all history.” (A Literary History of The Arabs, by A. Nicholson, 1969).
The battle of Badr claimed some big heads of the Quraish of Makkah; the most important among them was Abu Jahl, his brother and his son. Abu Jahl was considered as ‘Pharaoh for Muslim Ummah’. Umayyah Ibn Khalaf was another big notable killed in Badr. According to one narration, he was killed by his own ex-slave Bilal (r.a.a.). Abu Soufyan survived and returned to Makkah to prepare for another war. In total 70 Makkan fighters were killed and another 70 captured as prisoners of war.
On the other hand, from among the Muslims, 14 people were martyred. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his contingent returned to Madinah, a week before the end of Ramadan, glorifying and thanking the Merciful Lord for His help at Badr. This was the first major encounter between Muslims and the Makkans. So, the Prophet (s.a.w.) consulted his companions on the subject of ‘prisoners of war’. Abu Bakr suggested to pardon them and accept ransom for their release. In the end, the Prophet (s.a.w.) announced: “We will ransom the prisoners”.
According to some narrations, they were given the choice to accept Islam and win freedom; or to teach 10 Muslims ‘how to read and write’ and win freedom. Otherwise, the ransom amount was fixed at 400 Dirhams per prisoner.
Like many other ‘Firsts’ in the history of mankind, Badr also set the first example of the treatment of prisoners of war. Their lives were spared; they were treated humanely; they were provided with shelter and fed properly, even when some Muslims did not have food to eat and survived on dates and water.
Sir William Muir, the famous British orientalist known for his hostility towards Islam and Muslims, wrote:
“In pursuance of Mahomet’s commands, the citizens of Medina and such of the emigrants who possessed houses received the prisoners and treated them with much consideration. ‘Blessings be on the men of Medina’, said one of these prisoners in the later days, ‘they made us ride while they themselves
walked. They gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates’.”
The Battle of Badr is a constant reminder to the Muslims that if they fear Allah, the way Allah should be feared, and if they obey Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.), the way they should be obeyed, Allah’s help is guaranteed!