After the crushing defeat the small band of Muslims (313 ill-equipped men) exacted on the overwhelming might of the Qureish army (1,100 well-trained and well-equipped men) at Badr (more commonly known today as Saudi Arabia), the Muslims found themselves in a quandary as to what to do with the captives (70 Meccans according to some reports).
Men like Sa’eed and Umar ibn Al Khattab were in favor of killing the prisoners, their argument being that Qureish might rally their troops and launch a fresh assault on the Muslims. Who would then guard the captives if that happened? They had no men to spare for such an eventuality.
Abu Bakr, on the other hand, felt that Allah had helped them on the battlefield, and no matter what Qureish planned, Allah would not fail the Muslims against the Meccans. He pleaded for clemency for the prisoners.
It was Muhammed (pbuh) who brought an end to the controversy, by siding with Abu Bakr, and called his ‘Companions’ to council as to the future of the captives.
One point of irony, or perhaps sadness, though, was that many of those Muslims who had fought this significant battle in Islam, were in some way or other related to a Qureishi from Mecca who had fallen in combat. Many, on the side of Qureish again, especially those who had given the Prophet (pbuh) the most grief while he had stayed in Mecca, were killed by a brother, a cousin, or even a son.
They included men like Abu Jahl and Umayyah bin Khallaf, and men like Amr ibn Hisham and Utbah bin Rabi’ah, men who had been convinced that this ‘Battle’ (if one could call it that, they had scoffed) would be over long before the sun had reached its peak and they would continue their festivities and partying – on the grave of Muhammed (pbuh) himself!
And now, as the Prophet (pbuh) instructed his men to bury all the dead, thoughtfully surveying the scene that marked the beginning of the meteoric ‘Rise of Islam’, he couldn’t stop thanking and praising his Lord and Saviour for this unimaginable victory!
There were Qureishi warriors scattered all over; some without limbs, or without heads- even severed torsos. And flies were beginning to feast on the caked blood of their lifeless bodies, their irritating buzz mingling with the groans of the Muslims as they toiled in the hot afternoon sun. The battle had lasted only a few hours.
This battle, according to Al-Quran, was so poignant and so decisive that many historians, as well as Orientalists, agree that because of the ‘Battle of Badr’, Muhammed (pbuh) found himself firmly established as not only a spiritual leader, or a political leader, but a military man of great insight indeed.
And once again, we witness the awesome Power and Wisdom of Allah Almighty – as in the case of Prophet Abraham, who was commanded by Allah to leave his wife, Hagar, and his infant son, Ishmael, in the desert with only a few meager rations of food and water – and, to crown it all, come back after a few years to his wife and child with the utterly disturbing news that he had seen in a vision that God had commanded him to sacrifice his son.
But let us not procrastinate any further, let us just say that no matter what anyone’s beliefs or convictions are, or whether you are Muslim or non-Muslim, or even agnostic, no one can refute the fact that because of their infallible belief and commitment to the ‘Cause of the Almighty’ – because they feared their Lord in whatever they did – all the Prophets of God succeeded in making their mark on history and the world.
When all the dead were buried, the Prophet (pbuh) stood alone and called out, ‘O People of the Grave! O, Utbah bin Rabi’ah! O, Shaybah bin Rabi’ah! O, Umayyah bin Khallaf! O, Abu Jahl! Have you found what your Lord has promised you? Have you found what your gods (idols) has promised you? Indeed, I have found what my Lord has promised me, and you are the evidence of that!’
‘O, Messenger of God,’ someone wanted to know, ‘are you speaking to the dead?’
‘Yes!’ the Prophet (pbuh) answered matter-of-factly. ‘They hear me no less than you. They just cannot answer me!’
The sun began to set, its bright red glow lighting the western skies with a magnificent hue, making it look like a tapestry spread far and wide. It seemed as if Mother Nature herself was also acknowledging this incredible feat by the Muslims.
The next morning the Muslims prepared for their journey back to Medina. Word was sent ahead by the Prophet (pbuh) about the victory at Badr, and the Muslims now felt a little more relaxed about an attack by Qureish, whom they had expected to try something during the night.
But Qureish, in the meantime, was steadfastly repairing for Mecca, smarting profusely from the beating they had taken from the Muslims and licking their wounds as they plodded desolately through the desert sand. They needed time to come to come grips with this defeat. They needed time to mourn their dead and systematically plan a constructive method of revenge. Muhammed (pbuh) was not going to get away with this!
Meanwhile, it was decided to spare most of the captives; only a few of the mischief-makers, those who continued to show disrespect to the Prophet (pbuh) by bad-mouthing him and instigating others to do the same, were executed.
Perhaps the greatest manifestation of clemency came from Muhammed (pbuh) himself when he spared the life of the son of Abu Lahab, the man whom Allah Himself curses in the ‘Holy Quran’!
This particular son was married to the Prophet’s (pbuh) daughter. In fact, Abu Lahab had two of his sons married to Muhammed’s (pbuh) two daughters, Umme Kulthum and Ruqayah. But when the Prophet (pbuh) started his ministries about the One God, Allah, and that he was the ‘Messenger of that God’, Abu Lahab was the one who sent the two women packing and forbade his sons to have anything further to do with them.
Another significant show of forgiveness was that most of the captives were ransomed off to their families in Mecca. However, those who were poor, or who had no relatives, had to teach those Muslims who were illiterate to read and write. And those who could not even do this were sent back to their people in Mecca, provided they swore not to take up arms against the Muslims in the future.
Medina was never going to be the same again!