Battle of Badr
Life in Makkah was becoming unbearable for the Muslims. The disbelievers were not allowing them to worship Allah, and were torturing them. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, decided to migrate with his companions to Madinah, fleeing the oppression of Quraysh. They left Makkah in secret, leaving behind their property and their money.
The disbelievers in Makkah were very annoyed by this successful migration. They then confiscated everything the Muslims left in Makkah, and used their moneys to equip their caravans with goods to be sold in Syria.
Back in Madinah, the Muslims were thinking of a way to get their property back. “We cannot accept this injustice anymore, we must get our money back by any means,” one of the companions said. “Let us intercept one of their caravans and get back some of our wealth,” another companion said. However, at that time, the Muslims were weak, and not well equipped to fight the Quraysh tribes. Moreover, the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, would not take such an action until Allah allowed him to do so. Then one day he received the revelation from Allah, saying: “To those Muslims against whom war is waged, permission is given to fight, because they are wronged, and surely Allah is Able to give them victory.” [22:39]. When the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, got the news that a caravan of the Quraysh tribe was coming from Syria full of goods, in the direction of Makkah, he addressed his companions saying: “Here is the caravan of the Quraysh tribe carrying their wealth with it. Go and intercept it for Allah may give it to you as a booty.”
On the eighth day of Ramadhan, the Muslims gathered a small army comprised of 314 men, 70 camels and only two horses. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, and his companions took turns riding the camels, marching towards Badr. Most caravans stop at Badr, a location halfway between Makkah and Madinah, to drink from the wells and rest their mounts. Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan coming from Syria, was informed that Muhammad and his army had set out to intercept him. He dispatched a messenger to Makkah to tell his people of the imminent danger and to call upon them to come to his help. When the messenger of Abu Sufyan reached Makkah, he turned the saddle of his camel upside down, tore his clothes, and shouted, “The caravan! The caravan! Your goods with Abu Sufyan has been intercepted by Muhammad and his companions. It may be too late to save it. Help! Help!”
The news hit the people of Makkah like a thunderbolt. The disbelievers were greatly shocked. Immediately, they decided to prepare a great army to fight the Muslims. All the tribes supplied men, money, and equipment. They gathered an army of 1300 men strong, 100 horses and a great number of camels. They marched forth toward Badr, boiling with anger.
Meanwhile, Abu Sufyan reached the vicinity of Badr. There he met a Bedouin whom he asked if he had seen an army. The man answered that he came across nobody except two riders on the hill nearby. Abu Sufyan rushed to the place, there he found a datestone which he examined carefully. He exclaimed: “By Allah! This is the feed which the people of Madinah give to their animals.” He knew that the Muslims were not far away. He changed his course towards the west coast, escaping the Muslim army. When he was sure he was completely out of danger, Abu Sufyan dispatched a messenger to inform the disbelievers of Quryash that he no longer needed their help.
However, Abu Jahl, a sworn enemy of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, refused to return to Makkah and insisted that the army march up to Badr. He said with great arrogance: “By Allah, we will not turn back until we get to Badr. There we will stay for three days, slaughter animals, have a feast, drink wine and have the girls sing for us. All of Arabia shall hear of our march, our strength and shall afterwards respect us. Let us march on!” Their army was indeed the greatest ever witnessed by Arabia. Abu Jahl saw in this a golden opportunity to humiliate the Muslims, and if they engaged in fighting, to exterminate Muhammad and his companions, and with them the whole religion of Islam.
The news of the caravan’s escape and the advance of the disbelievers’ army reached the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam. It was alarming news, for the Muslim army was no match to the huge and well equipped army of Quraysh. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, needed to consult with his companions before making any decisions. The Muhajireen were eager to fight the disbelievers. Their leader, al-Miqdad ibn ‘Amr said to the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, “If you bid us, we will follow you to the extremity of the earth and fight with you until your goal is reached!” The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, was pleased by his answer, however the Muhajireen were a small division of the army. The Prophet needed to know the opinion of the Ansar. Besides, the Ansar had pledged to protect the Prophet as long as he remained in Madinah and were not obliged to fight outside it. At this point, Saad ibn Muath, the leader of the Ansar said to the Prophet, “We have believed in you and regard you as the true Messenger of Allah. We bear witness that what you have been given is the Truth, and on this we have given you our binding promise to hear and obey. March on as you desire and we are with you. By Allah, if you ask us to wade through the sea we will wade through with you, and not one of us will stay behind. Perhaps Allah will show you from us what will please you. March on with us!” The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, was greatly pleased by Saad’s words and issued orders for the army to march on towards the wells of Badr. They encamped near Badr and the Prophet himself sent a patrol to inquire about the position of the enemy. The patrol brought two boys to the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, who questioned them about the enemy’s army. The boys told him they were beyond the sand dune on the other bank of the valley, that they were a huge army, so huge that they slaughter ten camels every day to feed the men. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, turned towards his commanders and said: “Makkah has thrown to you her most precious treasures!” Meaning their best men.
On the 16th day of Ramadhan, the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, moved to the wells of Badr and encamped there. One of his commanders, al-Hubab ibn al-Munthir who was a military expert said: “May I suggest that we march on with the army and capture the source of water supplies nearest the enemy camp. We shall stay there, destroy all the other wells, and dig a tank near the remaining well to collect water. We would have enough water to drink while our enemy would have none.” The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, took the advice of al-Hubab and camped at the place he selected. Then Saad ibn Muath built a hut on a raised ground for the Prophet, so that he can guide the army. The Prophet himself made sure that his men were ready for the battle. He gave them the orders that they should not be the first to start the fight. The two armies advanced to meet each other. The situation grew very serious and the shadow of death hung over the valley. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, knew that on the outcome of this battle hung the fate of the Muslims and the religion of Islam. It was a battle between Islam and disbelief, between the Truth and falsehood. He knelt down and implored Allah, saying, “O Allah! Should this group of Muslims perish, there will be none left to worship You on earth.”
The first among the Muslims to engage in fighting was Hamza ibn Abdil Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle, killing a disbeliever who tried to reach the water tank to destroy it. That was the spark that started the battle. Three men among the best Quraysh warriors advanced between the two armies and challenged three Muslims to single combat. Hamza ibn Abdil Muttalib, Ali ibn Abi Taleb and Ubaidah ibn al-Harith among the Muslims advanced. Hamza and Ali killed their opponents in no time, while Ubaidah and his opponent dealt to each other a fatal blow. Enraged by this defeat, the Quraysh army showered the Muslims with arrows, then rushed forward brandishing their swords. They attacked in waves and lost a large number of their men, but were unable to break the Muslim lines. Holding their ground, the Muslims waited until their enemy spent its force, then they counter attacked swiftly with all their strength, carrying away before them the enemies. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, was leading the Muslims, fighting bravely in the front ranks and reciting the Qur’an at the same time. Suffering a great loss, the army of Quraysh fled before the Muslims, who chased them and took many prisoners. But Abu Jahl, would not admit defeat. He tried to reorganize his broken army, but they fled in disarray, leaving him with a group of spearmen to guard him. This did not deter Muath ibn Amr from getting at Abu Jahl, and hitting him with his sword, then another companion transfixed Abu Jahl with his lance and killed him.
It was a crushing defeat inflicted to the disbelievers who lost 70 of their best men, including 20 of their chiefs. Seventy others were taken prisoners. Fourteen Muslims died in this battle. The news of the Muslim victory reached the people in Madinah who rejoiced greatly. Yet they could not believe their eyes when, on the 23rd of Ramadhan, the Prophet and his companions entered the city triumphantly, dragging along seventy prisoners.
That was the Great Battle of Badr, which took place in Ramadhan. No other battle was more decisive in the history of Islam. Before it, Muslims were weak and constantly persecuted by their enemies. After it, they emerged as one powerful nation to be reckoned with, all by the Grace of Allah, Who is Able over all things.