We have previously discussed Qureish’s march to Medina, and, we have highlighted their passionate designs of avenging their dead, i.e. those who had fallen during the Battle of Badr, as well as those of their relatives and loved ones who had been killed by stalwart Muslims such as Hamza, Umar, and Ali.
We discussed the role of Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan (leader of the Qureish army). We discussed how she and others swept the Meccan warriors into an impassioned frenzy, so much so, that on 11 March 625 a mighty force of 3,000 Qureishi infantry and 400 cavalry (under the leadership of Khalid bin Walid) launched a menacing campaign on Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers.
Hind, as has been explained before, not only lost her father and brother to the sword of Hamza (the uncle of the Prophet (pbuh)), but some of her close relatives as well. She had sworn that she would not rest till she had cut down Hamza, removed his liver and eaten it. And she subsequently contracted an Abyssinian slave—one Wakhshi, a master of the lance and spear—to bring down Hamza (with just one meaningful throw), promising him his freedom as well as a huge amount of money if he succeeded in doing so. She was determined not to let anything stand in her way. Nothing!
And so, on the morning of 19 March 625, we saw the Prophet (pbuh), dressed in armor and at the head of approximately 700 men (and hardly any cavalry), arrive at the foot of Mount Uhud. This area is now known as northwestern Arabia.
It was still dark, and the morning prayer (Fajr) had not yet been performed.
To the East, the first rays of dawn struggled feebly against the mighty Arabian sky. A full moon was also making its way towards the horizon—now appearing, now disappearing behind a few stray clouds. There was much blood in the sky!
The Prophet (pbuh) alighted from his horse and Abu Bakr, his trusted friend, came to him.
‘O, Messenger of Allah,’ he said, looking somewhat concerned, ‘Observe the forces of Qureish…!’
Muhammed (pbuh) sighed, ‘Yes, O, Abu Bakr. They have many men.’ And he turned towards where the Qureish army were assembling their lines. ‘They have come for revenge, my Friend. They have certainly come for revenge!’
‘So what is your strategy, O Messenger of Allah?’ Abu Bakr wanted to know. Umar ibn Al Khattab also came nearer. There was a deep frown on his otherwise nonchalant face. ‘Are we going to engage them as we usually do?’ Umar asked, putting his hand on the Prophet’s (pbuh) shoulder. ‘Individual combat?’
It was customary in those days (as we saw in the Battle of Badr) for belligerents to call out to their opposite numbers and to start the war in that sort of fashion.
‘Yes!’ replied the Prophet (pbuh), turning in the direction of Mecca. ‘But we shall first offer the prayers of Fajr to Allah Almighty. Surely He is aware of our plight?’
Qureish, in the meantime, were making so much noise, and indulging in so much name-calling, that an onlooker would not have given the Muslims much of a chance against such fervor and such determination. One could almost smell the blood in the air.
Muhammed (pbuh) called out to Bilal, the freed Abyssinian slave, ‘O Bilal…’ he said, raising both his hands to the heavens. ‘Please sound the Athaan (Call to Prayer). Please still this pain in my heart!’
And, as the melodious voice of Bilal echoed across the plains: ‘Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! (God is Great! God is Great!), the Prophet (pbuh) sank to his knees and cried.
The Muslim soldiers, as if on cue, hastily formed rows behind the Prophet (pbuh) when Bilal had finished; the Qureish warriors, on the other hand, lifted their idols, Al-Lat and Al-Uzza, high and jeered at the Muslims. They were being spurred on by Hind and her female cohorts, whose faces were so contorted with hate and vengeance that no Qureishi warrior, no matter how lowly or insignificant, could ignore or discard the passion of the moment; mentally steeling himself to do battle, he was prepared to die for whatever cause his leaders wanted him to.
Hind, in the meantime, was screaming obscenities at Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers. She was gesticulating wildly, and her dress was practically torn from her body as she writhed uncontrollably amongst the soldiers. There was froth on her lips.
The Prophet (pbuh) lifted his hands to the sky, crying out aloud: ‘Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! (God is Great! God is Great!)’ And the light of the moon glinted from his steel helmet making it appear as a halo. The desert also seemed to hold its breath, demanding absolute silence from its inhabitants like the insects and desert crawlers. Even the moon seemed to pause in its downward journey, frowning at the scene which was about to play itself out in the desert sand. Hind kept on screaming obscenities at the Prophet (pbuh) and his men.
‘In the Name of Allah…’ The Prophet (pbuh) began his prayer, his followers listening attentively. ‘The Beneficent; The Most Merciful. Lord of all the Worlds!’
And Qureish watched perplexed. They couldn’t understand why Muhammed (pbuh) still had time to dilly-dally, especially since they (Qureish) were almost ready to attack!
‘Please show us the Straight Path,’ the Prophet (pbuh) continued, tears rolling down his cheeks. ‘The Path of those who have earned Thy Favor, and not of those who have gone astray! O, Allah! O, Allah! Please accept our Call!’
And so committed were they in their prayers, that Qureish (for some inexplicable reason) could only stare at them and shake their heads. These Muslims were really a puzzle to them.
The Prophet (pbuh), when he had finished his prayers, surveyed his troops and turned towards Mount Uhud. ‘I want 50 archers to guard our flank,’ he said, pointing towards the western side, where the Qureish cavalry (under the leadership of Khalid bin Walid) were lurking ominously. ‘And whatever you do,’ he added sternly, ‘do not leave your posts! No matter what happens!’
The archers nodded and left with Abdullah ibn Jubeir to take up their positions.
The Prophet (pbuh) then raised his sword and called out loudly: ‘Who is there who will do justice to this blade of steel?’ He smiled at them.
Abu Dujanah stepped forward—he was a very fierce fighter. ‘I will! O, Prophet of Allah! I will!’ And he took out a small red scarf and tied it around his head. ‘I am ready for Qureish!’
The two armies were poised: Hind and her cohorts chanting: ‘Ho Ho, Sons of Abd al Dar! Ho Ho, Guardians of the land! Strike down your enemies! Advance forward and we shall embrace you! Advance forward and we shall spread the carpets for you! Turn your backs and we shall avoid you! Turn your backs and we shall never come to you!’
Muhammed (pbuh) turned towards the heavens: ‘O, Allah…You are our Lord. You are our Sustainer. No hardship, nor evil can befall us, except that which Thee has Ordained. So Please, Grant us victory; Grant us success; Grant us the strength to overcome those who wish to deny You, O, Allah. You are the Most Powerful; The Most Magnificent. O, Lord of all the Worlds!’