The Battle of Uhud
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
THE EVENTS OF THE THIRD YEAR OF MIGRATION
The third year of migration began with minor encounters and some scattered battles which had a defensive aspect and were fought with a view to nip the conspiracies of the idolatrous tribes in the bud. However, the Battle of Uhud deserves attention amongst the events of the third year. This battle is a glaring example of the defence of the sacred religion of Islam, belief in the 'Oneness of Allah' and the freedom of faith. It is not at all appropriate to give the name of 'battle' or 'Ghazwah' to the sacrifices made by Muslims, because they had not planned to fight a battle, but had resorted to arms only to defend Islam and to ensure freedom of faith. They repulsed, after sustaining heavy losses, those people, who had come from Makkah and the adjoining areas, and had attacked Madina to destroy the worshippers of Allah and the seekers of freedom, and the Muslims had no alternative left but to reply to the cruel tyrants and oppressors with force and with fiery arms.
REASONS FOR THE BATTLE OF UHUD
The collective attack by the idolaters was the result of a chain of internal and external factors which brought a strong army to Madina to take revenge.
A dangerous element by the name of Ka'b bin Ashraf kindled this fire. He was a Jew from his mother's side, but himself professed to be an idolater. He enjoyed the protection of the Islamic State and did not meet any harm in the Battle of Badr, but on account of the enmity which he had against the Prophet of Islam he went to Makkah and shed crocodile tears in the assemblies of Quraysh and reminded them how their chiefs had been killed and captured. He displayed so much dexterity in this task that the old and young of Quraysh became ready to fight with the Prophet and to topple down the Islamic State.
In order to rouse the passions of the Makkans Ka'b praised the beauty of Muslim women in such a way that all the Makkans expressed a wish to fight against the Muslims so that they might defeat them and capture their women to satisfy their base desires. He also sang some verses in this behalf and inserted in them, with utter shamelessness, the names and particulars of Muslim women and gave indecent descriptions about them. After having carried out his plan he returned to Madina and took refuge in his fortress.
What was the duty of the Prophet and the Muslims with regard to this man, who provoked these passions? He kindled a fire, whose flames reduced to ashes seventy brave soldiers of Islam including Hamzah, and caused the blood of the righteous persons to flow in the land of Uhud.
Men of Aws tribe decided to relieve the Muslims of the mischief of Ka'b. Two persons named Muhammad bin Maslamah and Abu Na'ilah arrived in his fortress in the guise of friends and blamed the Prophet and his religion. They added that since the arrival of the Prophet in Yathrib all of them had been encircled by calamities and their persons and belongings had been destroyed. They enlarged on this topic so much that Ka'b felt that their views on the subject were identical with his. Then they said: "We have come now to purchase some grains from you and are obliged to pawn something, because we do not possess any cash at present".
Ka'b agreed to sell grains, but as regards the things to be given as security he uttered words which clearly displayed his base and impure spirit, for he said with utter shamelessness: "Your women and children should remain under my control by way of pledge". His remark disturbed the two persons so much that they said in reply: "Is it possible?"
These two persons did not actually want to purchase grains. They came back to chalk out a plan to murder him. They, therefore, made an offer at once to leave their weapons with him as security. Their object in making this offer was that when the armed persons approached his fortress he should imagine that they had come to leave their weapons with him as security and not that they had conspired against him.
At night an armed group of the men of Aws gathered round his fortress, ostensibly with the purpose of purchasing grains. Muhammad bin Maslamah, who was Ka'b's foster-brother, called him. Ka'b's wife objected to his going out in the darkness of night, but in view of the conversation which Ka'b had already had with them he came out of the fortress with perfect confidence and did not entertain any doubt on account of their being armed. Having encircled him they proceeded to a valley as if to show the commodity or to take possession of it. They had not yet gone far from the fortress when the men of Aws suddenly fell upon him and cut him to pieces. In this way a dangerous enemy, a mischievous spy and a dreadful element, whose most ardent desire had always been to inflict a blow upon the Muslims, was removed from their path.
Soon after the murder of Ka'b a Jew named Abu Rafe', who followed in Ka'b's footsteps and was one with him in the matter of spying and instigating, was also killed. Ibn Athir has recorded the details of this event in his history.
QURAYSH DECIDE TO MEET THE EXPENSES OF WAR
Seeds of subversion and disturbance had already been sown in Makkah for quite some time. Prohibition of mourning had strengthened the sense of revenge. Closure of the trade route of the people of Makkah via Madina and Iraq had made them extremely uneasy. Ka'b bin Ashraf added fuel to this fire and set it ablaze. For these reasons Safwan bin Umayyah and 'Ikramah bin Abi Jahl suggested to Abu Sufyan that as the chiefs and soldiers of Quraysh had been killed for the sake of the protection of the trade caravan of Makkah, it was expedient that everyone of those who owned a part of the merchandise which was carried by their caravan should contribute his share to meet the expenses of war. This proposal met Abu Sufyan's approval and was put in action immediately.
The chiefs of Quraysh who were aware of the strength of the Muslims and had observed their bravery and self-sacrifice from a very near quarters in the Battle of Badr, considered it expedient to face Muhammad with an organized army consisting of brave and experienced men of various tribes.
Amr bin As and some others were deputed to contact the tribes of Kananah and Saqif and to seek their help. They were instructed to invite their brave men to fight with Muhammad, fully equipped, and to promise them that the expenses of war and all necessities of the journey would be provided by Quraysh. They succeeded, after a good deal of activity, in procuring the services of a number of brave men belonging to the tribes of Kananah and Tahamah and in preparing an army consisting of three to four thousand men to participate in the battle.
What has been stated above is the number of men only, who participated in the battle, and if the number of the women, who were present on the scene, is added, the figure will go up. It was not the custom amongst the Arabs to take women to the battlefield, but this time women also participated in the battle along with men. And their plan was that they should walk between the formations of the troops, beating drums, and instigate them to take revenge, by reciting verses and making moving speeches.
They had brought the women along with them so that the path for soldiers fleeing the battlefield might be closed, because fleeing meant leaving the girls and women to be captured by the enemy, and the element of bravery in the Arabs could not yield to such a disgrace.
A large number of slaves joined the army of Quraysh on account of tempting promises made to them. Wahshi bin Harb was an Ethiopian slave of Mut'am. He possessed extraordinary skill in the use of javelin and had been promised freedom if he killed anyone of the three towering personalities of Islam (namely Muhammad, Ali, or Hamzah). In short, after taking great pains, they organized an army which consisted of seven hundred armour-clad men, three thousand camel-soldiers, a cavalry of two hundred men, and a group of foot-soldiers.
THE INTELLIGENCE ORGANIZATION OF THE HOLY PROPHET FURNISHES A REPORT
Abbas, uncle of the Prophet, who was in fact a Muslim but had not yet declared his faith openly, informed him about the war plans of Quraysh. He wrote a letter under his signature and seal, handed it over to a messenger belonging to the tribe of Bani Ghifar taking promise from him that he would deliver it to the Prophet within three days. The messenger brought the sealed letter to the Prophet when he was in a garden outside the city and handed it over to him after paying his respects to him. The Prophet read the letter but did not mention its contents to his companions. Allamah Majlisi quotes from Imam Sadiq that the Prophet did not write but could read a letter. Evidently it was necessary for the Prophet to inform his companions about the plan of the enemy as early as possible. Hence, on his return to the town, the letter was read over for their information.
THE ARMY OF QURAYSH MOVES
The army of Quraysh decided to move and after covering some distance reached Abwa where the mother of the Prophet lies buried. Some frivolous men from Quraysh insisted that her body might be exhumed. However, the far-sighted amongst them severely condemned this suggestion and added: "It is possible that this may become a custom in future and our enemies belonging to the tribes of Bani Bakr and Bani Khuza'ah may open the graves of our dead".
The Prophet deputed Anas and Munis bin Fazalah to go and bring information about Quraysh. These two persons brought the news that the army of Quraysh had reached near Madina and they had left their animals of mount in the fields of Madina to graze. Hubab bin Munzir brought information that the advance guard of the army of Quraysh had reached near Madina. Thursday afternoon it was confirmed that most of the army of Quraysh had advanced towards Madina. The Muslims were afraid lest the enemies should harm the Prophet by carrying out a night-attack. The chiefs of Aws and Khazraj, therefore, decided to arm themselves and to spend the night in the mosque so as to guard the house of the Prophet and the gates of the city till they were assigned other duties according to war plans after sunrise.
THE UHUD REGION
The big and lengthy valley which joined the trade route of Syria with Yemen is called Wadiul Qura. Different Arab tribes and the Jews took up their abode at a spot where necessities of life were available. A number of villages, therefore, came into existence and their sides were fenced by stones. Yathrib (which was later named Madinatur Rasul i.e. city of the Prophet) was considered to be the centre of these villages.
Whoever came from Makkah to Madina was obliged to enter there from the southern side. However, as this region was stony and it was difficult for an army to move into it, the army of Quraysh bent its route and established itself in the north of Madina in the valley named 'Aqiq, situated at the foot of Mt. Uhud. This area was fit for all sorts of military operations as there was no palm-grove in it and the land was also even. Madina was more vulnerable from this side because there were very few natural obstacles in this part.
The forces of Quraysh encamped at the foot of Mt. Uhud on Thursday, the 5th of Shawwal, 3 A.H. The Prophet remained in Madina on that day and also on the night preceding Friday. He formed a military council on Friday and asked the officers and other experienced men to offer suggestions regarding the defence of the city.
CONSULTATIONS IN THE MATTER OF DEFENCE
Almighty Allah had ordered the Prophet of Islam to consult his companions in important matters and to keep their suggestions in view while taking decisions and by doing so he set a great example for his followers and created a spirit of democracy, truthfulness and realism amongst them. Did he profit from their views or not? The learned ulemah and scholars of scholastic theology have given replies to this question. However, it is an established fact that these consultations are living examples of our constitutional regulations which have come down to us from the Prophet. This method of his was so instructive and impressive that the caliphs of Islam also followed it after his death and accepted in toto the lofty views of Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, with regard to military matters and social problems.
In a big assembly in which the officers and brave soldiers of the army of Islam were present, the Prophet said, "Let me have your views" i.e. he asked the officers and soldiers to express their views regarding the protection of Islam which was being threatened by Quraysh.
Abdullah bin Ubayy, who was one of the hypocrites of Madina, suggested fortified defence. It meant that Muslims should not go out of Madina but make use of towers and buildings, the women should stone the enemy from the roofs of the buildings and the towers and the men should fight hand to hand in the streets. He said: "In the past we used to practice the method of fortified defence and women helped us from the roofs of the houses and it is for this reason that the city of Yathrib has remained untouched. The enemy has not so far been able to utilize this method. Whenever we defended ourselves in this way we were victorious and whenever we went out of the city we met with harm".
The old and experienced persons from amongst the Muhajirs and the Ansar supported this view. However, the young people, and especially those who had not participated in the Battle of Badr and were keen to be engaged in a battle, severely opposed this view and said: "This method of defence will encourage the enemy and we shall lose the honour which we acquired in the Battle of Badr. Is it not a shame that the brave and self-sacrificing worshippers of Allah should confine themselves to their homes and allow the enemy to reach there? At the time of the Battle of Badr our strength was far less than the present one and in spite of that we were victorious. We have been waiting for long for such an opportunity and now we have got it".
Hamzah, the brave officer of Islam, said: "By Allah, who has revealed the Qur'an, I shall not take my meals today until I have fought against the enemy outside the city". This group insisted that the army of Islam should go out of the city and give a fight to the enemy.
DRAWING LOTS FOR BEING KILLED
A pious old man named Khaysamah stood up and said: "O Prophet of Allah, Quraysh have been active for full one year and have been able to align the Arab tribes with themselves. If we don't go out now to defend this place it is quite possible that they may besiege Madina. It is also possible that they may lift the siege and return to Makkah. However this very thing will encourage them and we shall not remain secure from their attacks in future. I am sorry that I could not participate in the Battle of Badr when my son and I were both very keen to take part in it and each one of us wished to steal a march on the other. In the Battle of Badr I said to my son: "You are young and have many aspirations and can spend the vigour of your youth in such a way that you may gain the pleasure of Allah. So far as I am concerned my life is now almost finished and my future is not bright. It is, therefore, necessary that I should participate in this sacred jihad (Battle of Badr) and you should shoulder the responsibilities with regard to my dependents".
"However, my son was so keen to participate in the battle that we decided to draw lots. The lot fell upon him and he met martyrdom in the Battle of Badr. Last night every one was talking about the siege by Quraysh and I went to sleep with these thoughts in my mind. I saw my son in a dream. He was walking in the gardens of Paradise and was enjoying its fruits. He addressed me with great love and said "Dear father! I am waiting for you ".
"O Prophet of Allah! My beard has become grey and my bones have lost flesh. I request you to pray to Allah for my martyrdom in the path of truth".
You will come across many such brave and self-sacrificing persons in the pages of the history of Islam. The training schools, which are not founded on faith and belief in the Almighty, and in the Day of Judgement, can rarely train self-sacrificing soldiers like Khaysamah. This spirit of self-sacrifice, which makes a soldier seek his death in the path of righteousness with tears in his eyes, cannot be inculcated in any school except in the school of godliness. In the industrial countries of the world today great importance is attached to the living conditions of the officers and other ranks of the armed forces. However, as the object during the modern wars is better life and maintenance for them, their main aim is to save their lives. In the school of the godly people, however, the object of fighting is to seek the pleasure of Allah and, if this object can be achieved by being killed, the soldier of Allah faces all dangers unswervingly.
RESULT OF CONSULTATIONS
The Prophet treated the view of the majority to be final and preferred going out of the city instead of resorting to fortified defence and hand to hand fight. It was not at all appropriate that after all the insistence by officers like Hamzah and Sa'd bin 'Ubadah he should accord preference to the suggestion of Abdullah Ubayy, who was one of the hypocrites of Madina. Although, from the viewpoint of defence and war principles, his suggestion guaranteed victory, or at least ensured that the Muslims should not meet defeat, but it was totally erroneous from the psychological viewpoint for the following reasons:
1. Disorderly hand to hand fighting in the narrow streets of Madina and allowing women to participate in these defensive operations and to remain confined in their homes and leaving the path open to the enemy would have been a sign of the weakness and helplessness of the Muslims and would not have been in keeping with the strength displayed by them in the Battle of Badr.
2. The siege of Madina by the enemy and his control over the roads of the city and the silence of the Muslim soldiers in the face of all this could have very well killed the spirit of warfare in them.
3. It was not impossible that Abdullah Ubayy who nursed a grudge against the Prophet, wished to give him a hard blow by this means.
THE HOLY PROPHET TAKES DECISION
After determining the line of defence the Prophet entered his house. He put on the coat of mail, girded a sword, put a shield on his back, hung a bow on his shoulder, held a spear in his hand, and, having thus equipped himself, reappeared before the people. This scene gave a severe jolt to the Muslims. Some of them thought that their insistence on going out of the city was not in accordance with Islamic principles and they had persuaded the Prophet unnecessarily to go out for fighting. To make amends, therefore, they said that they submitted to his views and would abide by whatever decision he might take i.e. if it was not expedient to go out they were prepared to remain in the city. The Prophet, however, replied "When a Prophet wears a coat of mail it is not proper for him to take it off unless he has fought against the enemy".
THE HOLY PROPHET GOES OUT OF MADINA
The Prophet offered Friday prayers and then left Madina for Uhud with an army consisting of one thousand men. He did not take with him persons like Usamah bin Zayd Harith and Abdullah bin Umar on account of their tender age, but two young men named Samurah and Rafe', who were not more than fifteen years of age, participated in the battle, because, in spite of their being young, they were good archers.
On the way some Jews, who were allies of Abdullah Ubayy, expressed their desire to participate in the defence of the city, but the Prophet did not consider it expedient, for some reasons, to allow them to do so. In the meantime Abdullah Ubayy also declined to participate in jihad on the excuse that the Prophet had accepted the suggestion of young men in preference to his. He, therefore, returned from half-way along with three hundred men belonging to the tribe of Aws, who were his kinsmen.
The Prophet and his companions were keen to proceed by the shortest route so as to reach their camping-place soon. For this purpose they were obliged to pass through the garden of a hypocrite named Jumuh. He expressed great annoyance in a mulish way on account of the entry of the Islamic army into his property and was disrespectful to the Prophet. The companions of the Prophet wanted to kill him but the Prophet said: "Leave alone this misguided and obstinate person".
TWO SELF-SACRIFICING SOLDIERS
At one point the Prophet reviewed his soldiers. Their self-sacrificing mettle and brilliant faces were shining through the lights of the swords. The army which the Prophet brought to the foot of Mt. Uhud consisted of persons in whose ages there was much divergence. Most of them were old men with white heads and faces but there could also be seen brave boys, whose ages did not exceed fifteen years. The thing which prompted these persons to participate in the battle was nothing else except the love for perfection which could be achieved only under the auspices of the defence of Islam. In support of this statement we narrate hereunder the stories of two persons i.e. an old man and a young man who had been married only one night earlier.
1. 'Amr bin Jumuh: He was an old man with a bent back, whose physical strength was exhausted and one of whose feet had also been injured in an incident. He had four brave sons whom he had sent to the battlefield and he was happy that they were fighting for the sake of truth and reality.
However, he thought within himself that it was not proper for him to remain away from the battle and thus to lose the blessings (of jihad). His kinsmen severely objected to his participating in the battle and said that the laws of Islam had absolved him from all such responsibilities. Their words did not, however, satisfy him and he approached the Prophet personally and said: "My kinsmen prevent me from participating in jihad. What is your view in the matter?" The Prophet replied "Allah considers you to be excused and no responsibility devolves upon you". He, however, insisted and entreated for the acceptance of his request. While his kinsmen were encircling him, the Prophet turned to them and said: "Don't prevent him from meeting martyrdom in the path of Islam". When he came out of his house he said: "O Allah! Make me successful in laying my life in Your path and don't make me return to my home".
A person who goes to meet death with open arms is sure to achieve his end. The attacks of this lame person were very exciting. He attacked in spite of his lame foot and said: "I am desirous of Paradise". One of his sons was also advancing along with him. Consequently both of them fought till they achieved the honour of martyrdom.
2. Hanzalah: He was a young man who had not yet completed twenty four years of his age. It has been said: "He brings into existence pure children from impure parents". He was the son of Abu 'Amir, an enemy of the Prophet. His father participated in the Battle of Uhud from the side of Quraysh and was one of those mischievous elements who instigated Quraysh to wage war against the Prophet. He worked against Islam till his death and was one of the founders of Masjid-i Zirar. A detailed account of it will be given in connection with the events of the ninth year of migration.
Filial sentiments did not make Hanzalah deviate from the right path. The night preceding the day on which the Battle of Uhud took place was his wedding night. He had married the daughter of Abdullah Ubayy, the well-known member of the tribe of Aws and was obliged to consummate the marriage rites the same night. When he heard the call to jihad he was perplexed. He found no alternative but to seek permission from the supreme commander to spend that night in Madina and reach the battlefield on the following day.
As quoted by Allamah Majlisi the following verse was revealed about him: The true believers are those who have faith in Allah and His Messenger, and when they are dealing with the Messenger in important matters, they do not leave without his permission. Muhammad, those who ask your permission believe in Allah and His Messenger. When they ask your leave to attend to their affairs, grant permission to whomever you please and implore Allah to forgive them. Allah is forgiving and merciful. (Surah al-Nur, 24:62)
The Prophet granted him permission for one night to consummate the nuptial rites. In the morning he reached the battlefield even before taking ceremonial bath. When he wished to come out of his house tears came in the eyes of the bride whose marriage had taken place only a night earlier. She put her arms round the neck of her husband and asked him to wait for a few moments. She then called four persons, who had stayed on in Madina on account of some excuse, to witness that marriage had taken place between them during the previous night.
When Hanzalah went, the bride turned to the four persons mentioned above and said: "Last night I dreaMt. that the sky was split and my husband entered it and thereafter the two parts of the sky rejoined each other. I feel, on account of this dream, that my husband and his soul will fly to Paradise".
Hanzalah joined the army. His eyes fell on Abu Sufyan who was parading between the two armies. He made a brave attack on him with his sword but it struck the back of Abu Sufyan's horse and he himself fell down.
The cries of Abu Sufyan attracted the attention of the soldiers of Quraysh. Shaddad Dulaythi attacked Hanzalah, as a consequence of which Abu Sufyan made good his escape.
A spearhead from amongst the soldiers of Quraysh attacked Hanzalah and thrust his spear into his body. In spite of the wound Hanzalah pursued that man and put him to the sword. He himself also fell down on the ground and breathed his last on account of the wound sustained by him.
The Prophet said: "I have seen that the angels were washing Hanzalah". That is why he is called 'Ghasilul Mala'ikah' (i.e. one who was washed by the angels). When the people of the tribe of Bani Aws recounted the causes of their glory and honour they used to say: "One of us was Hanzalah who was washed by the angels".
Abu Sufyan used to say: "If they killed my son Hanzalah in the Battle of Badr I also killed Hanzalah of the Muslims in the Battle of Uhud".
No doubt the mentality, sincerity and faith of this couple is surprising, because their fathers were the sworn enemies of Islam. The father of the bride was Abdullah bin Ubayy Salul, who was the chief of the hypocrites of Madina, and Hanzalah was the son of Abu 'Amir, who was a monk during the Age of Ignorance and after the advent of Islam joined the idolaters of Makkah. He was the person who invited Hercules to attack and destroy the newly-formed Islamic State.
ARRAY OF THE TWO ARMIES
In the morning of the 7th of Shawwal, 3 A.H., the Islamic forces arrayed themselves opposite the invading and aggressive forces of Quraysh. The Muslim army selected as their camping-place a point which had a natural barrier and protection at the back of it in the shape of Mt. Uhud. There was, however a particular gap in the middle of the mountain and it was probable that the enemy forces might turn round the mountain and appear at the back of the Muslim army through that gap and might attack them from behind.
In order to obviate this danger the Prophet posted two groups of archers on a mound and addressed their Commander Abdullah Jabir in these words: "You should drive away the enemies by shooting arrows. Don't allow them to enter the battlefield from behind and take us by surprise. Whether we are victorious or defeated, you should not vacate this point.
The events of the Battle of Uhud show clearly that this passage was extraordinarily sensitive and the defeat of the Muslims after they had achieved victory was due to the fact that the archers displayed indiscipline and vacated this important passage and the defeated and retreating enemy made a quick surprise attack through it.
The strict orders given by the Prophet to the archers not to move from their place were an evidence of his perfect knowledge of the principles of warfare. However, a commander's knowledge of the principles of warfare does not guarantee victory if the soldiers display indiscipline.
STRENGTHENING THE MORALE OF THE SOLDIERS
The Prophet did not ignore strengthening of the morale of the soldiers in the battles. This time, too, when seven hundred Muslims were arrayed against three thousand persons, he strengthened their morale by an address. The great Historian of Islam, Waqidi, says: "The Prophet posted fifty archers on the isthmus of Ainayn and kept Mt. Uhud in the back and Madina in front of the Muslim forces. While walking on foot he arrayed the troops and fixed the place of every officer. He kept one group in the front and another in the rear. He arrayed the rows so minutely that if the shoulder of any soldier was ahead of others he immediately asked him to move behind.
After arraying the rows the Prophet addressed the Muslims in these words: "I advise you to follow what has been enjoined by Almighty Allah in His Book. I remind you to obey the orders of Allah and refrain from opposing Him ". Then he added: "It is a difficult and onerous task to fight with the enemy, and there are very few, who can remain steadfast before them except those, who have been guided and supported by Allah, for Allah is with those, who obey Him and Satan is with those, who disobey the Almighty. Above anything else you should remain steadfast in jihad and should acquire by this means the blessings, which Allah has promised you. The messenger, the Archangel Jibreel has said to me that none dies in this world unless he has eaten the last little bit of his daily portion fixed by Providence ............And until orders are given to start fighting none should resort to it".
THE ENEMY ORGANIZES HIS ROWS
Abu Sufyan divided his army into three parts. He placed the armour-clad infantry men in the middle, a group under the command of Khalid bin Walid on the right and another group under the command of 'lkrimah on the left. He also posted a special platoon in front of the army by way of vanguard, and this group also included the standard-bearers, all of whom belonged to the tribe of Abdud Dar. Then he addressed them saying: "Victory of an army depends on the steadfastness and perseverance of the standard-bearers. On the Day of Badr we were defeated in this field. If the tribe of Abdud Dar don't display competence in protecting the standard, it is possible that the honour of bearing the standard may be transferred to another tribe". Talhah bin Abi Talhah, who was a brave man and the first standard bearer felt these words. He stepped forward immediately and challenged the adversary to fight.
Before the battle commenced the Prophet held a sword in his hand and, in order to stir the blood of the brave soldiers, turned his face towards them and said: "Who is the person, who holds, this sword in his hand, and gives it its due? " Some persons stood up but the Prophet did not hand over the sword to them. Then Abu Dujanah, who was a brave soldier, stood up and said: "What is due to this sword and how can we give it?" The Prophet said: "You should fight with it so much that it should bend". Abu Dujanah said: "I am prepared to pay its due". Then he tied to his head a red handkerchief which he called 'the handkerchief of death' and took the sword from the Prophet. Hence, by tying this head-band to his head he meant that he would fight till his last breath. He walked like a proud leopard and was very happy to receive the honour which he did and the red handkerchief added to his dignity. No doubt such ostentation is the best stimulant to encourage an army, which fights for the defence of truth and spirituality, and which has no aim other than the spreading of freedom of faith, and no motive except the love for perfection. Perhaps this action of the Prophet was not only to stimulate the person of Abu Dujanah, for by this means he also encouraged others and impressed upon them that their bravery and determination too should be of such a standard that they should deserve such military medals.
Zubayr Awam, who was himself a brave soldier, felt somewhat uneasy because of the Prophet's not giving the sword to him. He, therefore, said to himself: "I should pursue Abu Dujanah to see the standard of his bravery". He said: "I followed him in the battlefield. He cut down every warrior that faced him". Then he said: "There was a champion amongst Quraysh, who quickly cut off the heads of wounded Muslims, and I was very much disturbed on account of this unusual act of his. By some lucky chance he came face to face with Abu Dujanah.
A few blows were exchanged between them and eventually the champion of Quraysh was killed at the hands of Abu Dujanah. Abu Dujanah said: "I saw someone encouraging Quraysh to fight. I went up to him and when he saw the sword hanging on his head he began to bewail and cry. Suddenly I realized that it was a woman (Hind wife of Abu Sufyan) and I considered the sword of the Prophet too pure to be struck on the head of a woman (like Hind)".
THE BATTLE BEGINS
Ibn Hisham writes: "The battle commenced through Abu 'Amir who was one of those who had fled Madina. He belonged to the tribe of Aws but, on account of his enmity with Islam, had taken refuge in Makkah and fifteen persons of Bani Aws were with him. He was under the impression that if the people of Aws tribe saw him they would desert the Prophet. He, therefore, stepped forward to achieve this end. However, when he confronted Muslims he had to face their taunts and abuses. After a short fighting, therefore, he kept himself aloof from the front.
Self-sacrifices of some warriors in the Battle of Uhud are well-known amongst the historians, and the sacrifices made by Ali are specially worthy of appreciation. Ibn Abbas says: "In all the battles Ali was the standard-bearer and a standard-bearer was always selected from amongst experienced and steadfast persons and in the Battle of Uhud the standard of Muhajirs was in the hands of Ali". According to many historians, after Mus'ab bin Umayr, the standard-bearer of the Muslims, was martyred the Prophet gave the standard to Ali and the reason for Mus'ab having held the standard in the first instance was perhaps that he belonged to the family of Bani Abdud Dar and the standard-bearers of Quraysh also belonged to the same family". (This view has been taken from Balazari).
Talhah Abi Talhah, who was called Kabshul Katibah (a man equal to a vanguard of an army) entered the battlefield shouting and said: "O companions of Muhammad! You believe that our people, who are killed, go to Hell whereas yours go to Paradise. In the circumstances is there anyone amongst you whom I may send to Paradise or he may send me to Hell?" His voice was ringing in the battlefield. Ali went forward and after the exchange of some blows Talhah fell down.
After Talhah was killed, his two brothers became the standard-bearers, one after the other. However, both of them succumbed to the arrow shots of 'Asim bin Thabit.
It is learnt from the speech which Ali made before the consultative body which was formed to select a caliph after the death of the Second Caliph that the army of Quraysh had kept nine persons in reserve for the office of standard-bearer and it had been decided that they would bear the standard in a specified order and if the first person was killed the second would bear the standard and so on and so forth. All these standard-bearers who belonged to the tribe of Bani Abdud Dar were killed at the hands of Ali. After them an Ethiopian slave named Sawab, who had a frightening figure and a dreadful mien, picked up the standard and asked for an adversary. He too fell to a blow of Ali.
In a big assembly, in which the companions of the Prophet were present, Ali said: "Do you remember that I relieved you of the mischief of nine persons of the tribe of Bani Abdud Dar, everyone of whom held the standard by turn and asked for an adversary?" All those present confirmed the statement of Ali, the Commander of the Faithful. He added: "Do you remember that after the nine persons, the Ethiopian slave Sawab entered the field and had no object but to kill the Prophet of Allah. He was so furious that his mouth was emitting foam and his eyes had become red. On seeing that dreadful warrior all of you were astonished and retreated, whereas I went forward and, striking a blow on his back, brought him to the ground". Those present confirmed these remarks as well.
WHO WERE FIGHTING FOR THE SAKE OF LUST?
It is learnt from the verses, which Hind and other women were reciting with tambourines to instigate the warriors of Quraysh and to incite them to blood-shed and revenge, that these people were not fighting for the sake of spirituality, purity, freedom and moral virtues. On the contrary they were prompted by sexual and material consideration. The song which the women sang with tambourine and a particular tune amongst the rows of the army was: "We are the daughters of Tariq. We walk on costly carpets. If you face the enemy we shall sleep with you, but if you show your back to the enemy and flee, we shall disengage ourselves from you".
It is an admitted fact that there is a clear contrast and a vast difference between people, whose warfare is prompted by sexual desires and who have no aim other than the satisfaction of material gains and beastly pleasures and the people, who fight for a sacred spiritual object like establishing freedom, raising the level of thinking and relieving man of the worship of wood and stone. On account of the two different stimulants which existed in the minds of these two groups it was not long before as a consequence of the self-sacrifice of the brave officers of Islam like Ali, Hamzah, Abu Dujanah, Zubayr and others, the army of Quraysh threw their weapons and provisions on the ground and ran away disgracefully from the battlefield. Another glory was thus achieved by the warriors of Islam.
DEFEAT AFTER VICTORY
We may mention here as to why the warriors of Islam were victorious. It was due to the fact that till the last moment of their victory they had no motive except that of jihad in the path of Allah, acquisition of His pleasure, conveying the message of Allah and the removal of every impediment in its path.
Why were they defeated thereafter? It was because, after achieving victory, the aim and intention of most of the Muslims underwent a change. Attention towards the booty, which the army of Quraysh had themselves thrown in the battlefield and had fled, affected the sincerity of a large group and they ignored the orders given by the Prophet.
Here are the details of the event: While explaining the geographical conditions of Uhud we had mentioned that there was a particular gap in the middle of Mt. Uhud and the Prophet had entrusted fifty archers under the command of Abdullah Jabir to guard the valley behind the battle front and had given these orders to the commander of the group: "Prevent the enemy from passing through the gap in the mountain by shooting arrows and don't vacate this point at any cost whether we are defeated or victorious".
The fire of warfare blazed up on both the sides. Every time the enemies wished to cross his valley they were repulsed by the archers.
When the army of Quraysh threw away their weapons and property on the ground and ignored everything else to save their lives, a few brave officers of Islam whose oath of allegiance was perfectly sincere pursued the enemy outside the battlefield. But the majority ignored the pursuit and placing their weapons on the ground began collecting the booty and imagined that the battle had come to an end.
The persons guarding the valley behind the battle front also decided to avail of the opportunity and said to themselves: "It is useless for us to stay here and it is profitable that we too should collect the booty". Their commander, however, reminded them that the Prophet had ordered that whether the Muslim army gained victory or was defeated they should not move from their post. Majority of the archers, who were guarding the passage, opposed their commander and said: "Our staying here is useless and the Prophet meant only that we should guard this passage when the battle was in progress, but now the fighting has ended".
On the basis of this false presumption forty men came down from the vigilance post and only ten persons remained there. Khalid bin Walid, who was a brave and experienced warrior and knew from the very start that the mouth of the passage was the key to victory and had attempted many times to reach at the back of the war-front through it, but had to face the archers, took advantage of the small number of the guards this time. He led his soldiers towards the back side of the Muslim army and making a surprise attack reached at the party of the Muslims. The resistance by the small group which was stationed above the mound could not prove effective till all the ten persons after putting up a tough fight were killed at the hands of the troops of Khalid bin Walid and 'Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl. Soon after that the unarmed and neglectful Muslims were subjected to a severe attack of the enemy from behind.
After having gained possession of the sensitive point Khalid sought the collaboration of the defeated army of Quraysh, which was in a state of flight, and strengthened the spirit of resistance and perseverance of Quraysh with repeated shootings and cries. On account of disruption and confusion which prevailed in the ranks of the Muslims, the army of Quraysh soon surrounded the Muslim warriors and fighting commenced between them once again.
This defeat was due to the negligence of those persons who vacated the passage for their material gains and unintentionally cleared the way for the enemy in such a manner that the mounted soldiers under orders of Khalid bin Walid entered the field from behind.
The attack by Khalid was supported by an attack by 'Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl and unprecedented and surprising disorder prevailed in the forces of Islam. The Muslims had no alternative but to defend themselves as a scattered group. However, as liaison with the command had also been disrupted they did not succeed in defending themselves and suffered heavy casualties, so much so that some Muslim soldiers were inadvertently killed by other Muslims.
The attacks by Khalid and 'Ikrimah strengthened the morale of the army of Quraysh. Their retreating forces reentered the field and lent them support. They encircled the Muslims from all sides and killed a number of them.
THE RUMOUR ABOUT THE PROPHET BEING KILLED SPREADS
A brave warrior of Quraysh named Laythi attacked Mus'ab bin Umayr, the daring standard-bearer of Islam, and after exchange of a number of blows between them the standard-bearer of Islam was killed. As the Muslim warriors had hidden their faces Laythi thought that the person killed was the Prophet of Islam. He, therefore, shouted and informed the chiefs of the army that Muhammad had been killed.
This rumour spread from man to man in the army of Quraysh. Their chiefs were so happy that their voices were ringing in the battlefield and all of them were saying "O people! Muhammad has been killed! O people! Muhammad has been killed! "
Publicity of this false news encouraged the enemy and the army of Quraysh came into motion. Everyone of them was keen to participate in cutting the limbs of Muhammad so that he might secure a high status in the world of polytheism.
This news weakened the morale of the warriors of Islam much more than it gave strength to the morale of the army of the enemy, so much so that a considerable majority of Muslims abandoned fighting and took refuge in the mountains and none of them, except a few, who could be counted on fingers, remained in the field.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO DENY THE FLIGHT OF SOME PERSONS?
It is not possible to deny that some companions fled the field and the fact that they were companions of the Prophet or that later they acquired status and honour amongst the Muslims should not prevent us from accepting this bitter reality.
Ibn Hisham, the famous historian, writes thus "Anas bin Nazr, the uncle of Anas bin Malik says: "When the army of Islam came under pressure and the news of the death of the Prophet was afloat, most of the Muslims thought of their own lives and every person took refuge in one corner or the other". He adds: "I saw a group of Muhajirs and Ansar, including Umar bin Khattab and Talhah bin Ubaydullah Taymi, who were sitting in a corner and were anxious for themselves. I said to them with a tone of protest: "Why are you sitting here?" They replied, "The Prophet has been killed and it is, therefore no use fighting". I said to them: "If the Prophet has been killed it is no use living. Get up and meet martyrdom in the same path in which he has been killed".
According to many historians, Anas said: "If Muhammad has been killed his Lord is alive". And then he added: "I saw that my words had no effect on them. I put my hand to my arms and began to fight with determination". Ibn Hisham says that Anas sustained seventy wounds in this battle and none could identify his dead body except his sister.
A group of Muslims were so much depressed that in order to ensure their safety they planned to approach Abdullah Ubayy so that he might obtain security for them from Abu Sufyan.
THE HOLY QUR'AN REVEALS SOME FACTS
The verses of the Holy Qur'an tear the veils of fanaticism and ignorance and make it abundantly clear that some companions thought that the promise given by the Prophet about victory and success was baseless and the Almighty Allah says thus about this group: To some others (a group of companions) of you, your lives were so important that, you, like ignorant people, began thinking suspiciously of Allah saying, 'Do we have any say in the matter?" (Surah Ale Imran, 3:153 )
You can learn the hidden facts about this battle by studying the verses of Surah Ale Imran. These verses fully bear out the facts in which the Shi'ah believe. The Shi'ah believe that all the companions were not self-sacrificing or lovers of Islam, and some persons with weak faith were hypocrites who were amongst them. And at the same time there were among the companions a large number of true believers and pious and sincere persons. Nowadays a group of Sunni writers attempt to draw a curtain on many of these unworthy acts of the companions (their specimens have been seen by you in connection with the events of this battle). They protect the position of all of them by offering unrealistic explanations which only show their fanaticism and cannot hide the real facts of history.
Who can deny the substance of this verse which says clearly: (Believers, remember) when you were fleeing without even glancing to either side even though the Messenger was calling you back. (Surah Ale Imran, 3:152)
This verse is about the same persons, who were seen by Anas bin Nazr with his own eyes when they were sitting in a corner and were anxious about their future.
The following verse is more clear than that quoted above: Those of you, who ran away on the day when the two armies met, must have been seduced by Satan on account of some evil they had done. But now Allah has pardoned them, He is Forgiving and Forbearing. (Surah Ale Imran, 3:154)
Allah reprimands in the following verse those persons who made the news about the Prophet's assassination an excuse for abandoning fight and were thinking of approaching Abu Sufyan through Abdullah bin Ubayy to guarantee their safety: Muhammad is only a Messenger. Other Prophets have passed away before him. If he dies or be slain, would you then turn back to your pre-Islamic behaviour. Whoever does so can cause no harm to Allah. Allah will reward the thankful. (Surah Ale Imran, 3:144)
When we study the events of Uhud some bitter and sweet experiences are gained; the strength of the perseverance and steadfastness of one group and the instability of the other group can be clearly observed. The historians, annalists and others who record facts; it becomes crystal clear that all companions cannot be considered inherently pious and just, only because they were companions, hence, the persons, who vacated the mound of archers, and those, who climbed the mountain in delicate moments and ignored the call of the Prophet consisted of the same dignified companions.
The great historian of Islam, Waqidi, says: "On the day of Uhud eight persons swore allegiance to the Prophet assuring him of laying down their lives for him. Out of them three were Muhajirs (Ali, Talhah and Zubayr) and the remaining five were Ansar and with the exception of these eight persons took to their heels at the delicate moment".
Ibn Abil Hadid writes: In the year 608 A.H. I was present in an assembly in Baghdad in which some persons were reading the book of Mughazi-i Waqidi in the presence of the great scholar Muhammad bin Ma'ad 'Alavi. When they reached the stage at which Muhammad bin Maslamah narrates clearly: "On the day of Uhud I saw with my own eyes that the Muslims were climbing the mountain and the Prophet was calling them with their particular names and was saying: 'O such and such! O such and such!' But not even one of them gave a positive reply to the Prophet's call". The teacher said to me: "By 'such and such' the same persons are meant who acquired position and office after the Prophet", and the narrator has not mentioned their actual names on account of fear, and because of the respect, which he was expected to accord to them".
He has also narrated in his commentary that most of the narrators are agreed upon it that the Third Caliph was one of those persons who were not constant and stable in the battlefield at delicate moments.
Later you will read a sentence of the Prophet about a self-sacrificing lady of Islam named Nasibah who defended the Prophet in the battlefield of Uhud. In that sentence there is also an allusion to the lowering of the position and personality of those who had run away. We have not to settle accounts with any one of the companions of the Prophet. Our object is to bring realities to light and to state facts. We blame their running away to the same extent to which we praise the perseverance and steadfastness of the other group and consider their character to be commendable.
FIVE PERSONS CONSPIRE TO KILL THE HOLY PROPHET
At the time when the army of Islam was faced with disorder and chaos, the Prophet was being attacked from all sides. Five notorious men of Quraysh determined to put an end to his life at any cost. They were:
1. Abdullah bin Shahab who wounded the forehead of the Prophet.
2. 'Utbah Abi Waqqas who, by flinging four stones, broke his ruba'iyat teeth of the right side.
3. Ibn Qumi'ah Laythi who inflicted a wound on the face of the Prophet. The wound was so severe that the rings of the Prophet's helmet penetrated into his cheeks. These rings were extracted by Abu 'Ubaydah Jarrah with his teeth and he lost four of his own teeth in doing so.
4. Abdullah Hamid, who was killed, at the time of attack, at the hands of the hero of Islam, Abu Dujanah.
5. Abi Khalf. He was one of those persons who fell at the hands of the Prophet himself. He faced the Prophet at the time when he (the Prophet) had managed to reach in the valley and some of his companions had come round him, on having identified him. Abi Khalf advanced towards the Prophet. The Prophet took a spear from Hasis bin Simmah and thrust it in the neck of Abi Khalf as a consequence of which he fell down from his horse.
Although the wound sustained by Abi Khalf was minor, he had become so much terrified that when his friends consoled him he could not compose himself and said: "l said to Muhammad in Makkah that I would kill him and he said in reply that he would kill me, and he never tells a lie". All was over with him on account of the wound and fear, and after some time he breathed his last on his way back to Makkah.
No doubt this event indicates one extreme meanness of the polytheists. Notwithstanding the fact that they admitted that the Prophet was truthful and never uttered a lie, but as they had become his enemies, they wanted to shed his blood.
The Prophet did not move from his place. He remained as firm as a rock and continued to defend his own person as well as Islam. Notwithstanding the fact that the distance between his life and death had become extraordinarily short and he could very well see that the army of the enemy was turning towards him like a wave, he did not move from his place nor uttered any word which might betray any fear or anguish on his part. Only at the time of cleansing his forehead of blood he said: "How can the people achieve salvation if they besmear the face of their Prophet with blood when he invites them to the worship of Allah". And this shows his extreme compassion and kindness even for his enemies.
Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, says: "The Prophet was nearest to the enemy in the battlefield and provided us asylum as and when matters became difficult. Hence one of the reasons for the Prophet remaining safe was his defending himself and Islam personally, but there was another reason, which guaranteed his life, and that was the self-sacrifice of a few of his sincere and faithful friends and companions who purchased his life at the cost of their own lives, and kept this luminous candle safe from being extinguished. The Prophet gave a tough fight on the Day of Uhud and shot all the arrows in his quiver, so much so that his bow was broken and its bow-string was also severed.
The number of those who defended the Prophet did not exceed a few persons. However, the steadfastness of all of them is not indisputable, but it is definite from the viewpoint of the art of history. What is definite and final amongst the historians is the perseverance of a very small group. An account of the defence conducted by them is given here.