On the 17th of Ramadan 643 AD, a Friday, the greatest battle in the history of Islam (and perhaps the history of the world) was fought on the plains of Badr, somewhere southwest of the city of Medina and more commonly known today as Saudi Arabia.
This battle marked an unbelievable turning point for the future of Islam, mainly because the Muslims had not prepared for a full scale war with Qureish (as we have discussed earlier), and, moreover, the army of Islam were a meager 313 ill-equipped, inexperienced men of diverse backgrounds whom the Prophet (pbuh) had felt uncertain of initially but who, as events progressed, had proven their steadfastness when he had called on their willingness to do battle with an enemy far superior in numbers and in military prowess.
Qureish (as we have said previously) presented a force of 1,100 seasoned warriors, accompanied by horses and their chief Idols, Al Lat and Al Uzza.
This battle, as had been recorded by many historians – Muslim and non-Muslim – manifested a do-or-die situation for Islam as evidenced by the words of Muhammed (pbuh):
‘O Allah! You are the Most Powerful; The Most Mighty!
You, O, Allah, are the Wise and Most Merciful!
Give us victory on this day, O, Allah! Please make us strong so that our small army of men do not falter against the overwhelming might of Qureish.
Surely, O, Allah, if we perish today on this battlefield
then never again shall you be worshiped as you aught to be worshiped! O, Allah! O, Allah!’
The tears streamed down his face, as sobs wracked his body.
And so fervent was his prayer, as he raised his hand to the heavens, that his mantle fell off and Abu Bakr, his close friend, picked it up and replaced it on his shoulders.
‘O, Prophet of Allah!’ Abu Bakr said earnestly, ‘You have asked enough now! Surely Allah is aware of our condition! Surely He, on Whom all our lives depend for sustenance and succor – He Who is Lord of all the Worlds and Everything – He will not let us down today!’
And, with these words he placed his hands on Muhammed’s (pbuh) shoulders as they both surveyed the pitiful sight before them, i.e. the sight of the ‘Faithful’ facing certain death at the hands of Qureish.
It had rained the previous day, and the desert sand was somewhat lumpy. Soon it will be covered with blood, thought Muhammed (pbuh) as he looked at the Muslims lining up in ranks. Soon the cries of the wounded and the dying shall rend the air – and the plains of Badr shall bear testimony to the victory or demise of Islam!
It was then that Al Aswad ibn Al Makhzumi jumped forward (see our previous article), crying, ‘To war! To war!’ As he rushed towards Hamza ibn Al Mutallib, the Prophet’s (pbuh) uncle first cut off the Qureishi’s leg and then his head.
Utbah bin Rabi’a, one of the Qureish nobles, couldn’t believe his eyes. He stared perplexed at the blood gushing from Al Aswad ibn Al Makhzumi’s decapitated body. He angrily challenged the Muslims to a duel.
A number of youths (locals from Medina) rushed forward, brandishing their swords, their eyes burning with excitement.
But Shaybah, Utbah bin Rabi’a’s brother, called out tersely, as he recognized them. ‘We haven’t come to fight you..!’ He was standing to the left of Utbah, while Al Walid, Utbah’s son, was to the right. ‘We want to fight our own tribesman!’
The Muslims stared confused at one another.
‘Muhammed (pbuh)..!’ shouted Shaybah, as he raised his sword, pointing it towards the Muslims, ‘Send us men from our own peers and our own tribes to fight us!’ And he swished his sword through the air.