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.
It was customary in those days for the opposing sides to first engage in a duel between selected fighters, before the main battle commenced.
Hamza, the Prophet’s (pbuh) uncle, as ready as ever, did not wait for a second invitation. He stepped forward immediately.
Ali bin Abu Talib, the Prophet’s (pbuh) cousin followed, as did Ubaydah ibn Al Harith.
The three Qureishis came rushing forward, Utbah bin Rabi’a's son Al Walid leading the charge and screaming obscenities as he did so.
He swung wildly with his sword at Ali bin Abu Talib, who skilfully dodged the blows – and, as Al Walid momentarily lost his balance, Ali pushed his sword (named Thul Fikr) right up to the hilt into Al Walid’s body.
The Qureishi began spewing blood as he sank to the ground, his father, Utbah, starting to cry, ‘My son! My son!’ He ran over to Al Walid, who died, coughing blood into the desert sand. Utbah was beside himself with grief. He jumped up and with an animal cry lunged at Ubaydah ibn Al Harith, who forcefully resisted Utbah’s onslaught.
Hamza (nicknamed the lion-hunter, and, not for nothing!) made short work of Shaybah, killing him with a sickening blow to the head that caused brain tissue to spatter in all directions. Both Hamza and Ali then went to help Ubaydah bin Harith finish off Utbah bin Rabi’a.
The main forces collided; Qureish was screaming obscenities. Some reports say that amongst the Meccans were women who lewdly promised their warriors sexual favors of great bounty for every Muslim killed!
The Muslims on the other hand were calling out to their Lord: ‘Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! La Illa ha Illalahu Allah Hu Akbar! Allahu Akbar Wa Lillahil Gamd!’
‘God is Great! God is Great! There is no other God But Allah. God is Great! And there is none worthy of worship but He!’
It has been said that as the Muslims advanced into the midst of Qureish, chanting the name of Allah and praising his Greatness, a bevy of soldiers, whom no one knew, could be seen laying waste to the fighters of Qureish. These were the angels that Allah Almighty had promised Muhammed (pbuh)!
So fiercely they fought, that the followers of Muhammed (pbuh) found themselves driving the hordes of Qureish back with a strength that to this day boggles the mind of every historian and every Orientalist who has ever recorded this battle.
The force of Qureish was dealt such a telling blow (70 dead on the Meccans’ side and only about 13 on the side of the Muslims) that the whole of Arabia, as well as the neighboring states, were seeing Muhammed (pbuh) in a completely different light. No more was he regarded as a ‘trier’ who was peddling a religion unto the weak-willed and the downtrodden. No more was he considered a false prophet who was misleading people by his preachings of the One God, but that he (Muhammed (pbuh)) was the true Messenger of that God. And whatever anyone thought of him as a political leader, or as a spiritual leader, or, for that matter, a military man, Muhammed (pbuh) carried the respect of all those who came into contact with him.
The city of Medina was preparing itself for the ‘Rise of Islam!’