4. At Madina The battles
Small detachments of the Quraish used to go out on marauding expeditions
and scour the country right up to the outskirts of Madina. The situation
called for vigilance on the part of the Prophet. Reconnaissance
parties were sent out by him to keep an eye on enemy movements and
to approach certain tribes to secure their alliance or neutrality.
One such party sent out with express orders to gather information
about the Quraish movements accidentally killed a member of the
Quraish, Ibn Hadzrami by name. The usual practice in Arabia in such
cases was to demand blood-money. But the Quraish wanted a pretext
to rouse the populace against the Muslims, and Ibn Hadzram's murder
furnished it. Another pretext was furnished by a Quraish caravan
coming from Syria just at this time. Knowing that the Muslims were
still very weak, the Quraish thought that 1,000 men would be sufficient
to annihilate them, and with this army they marched on Madina in
the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, in the second
year of the Prophet's Flight.
When news of this reached Madina, the Prophet made hurried preparations
to meet them, but could gather only a force of 313 Muslims. The
two forces met at Badr, a distance of three days journey from Madina
and ten days from Makka; on the one side being 1,000 veteran warriors
with whom fighting had been a life-long profession, armed with every
weapon of warfare of the time, and on the other only 313 ill-equipped
men, including raw youths and men advanced in age. The Prophet saw
this and in deep anxiety passed the night praying to God in a small
"O Allah ! Shouldst Thou suffer this small band
of believers to perish this day, no one will be left on earth to
worship Thee and carry Thy message to the world. O Living One !
O Subsisting One by whom all subsist ! I cry to Thee for Thy mercy."
The unexpected happened. Almost all the Quraish chiefs, the ringleaders
of the campaign against Islam, were slain in action. Seeing their
chiefs fall, the rank and file were seized with confusion and took
to flight. Seventy fell and an equal number were taken prisoners.
There were fourteen casualties on the Muslim side.
The Quraish defeat at Badr was an ignominy which they could not
leave unavenged. An army of 3,000 strong, with warriors like Khalid
among them, marched on Madina next year, Shawwal, 3 A.H. The Muslims
could muster no more than 700 men, and marched out of Madina to
meet the enemy at the foot of Uhud, only three miles from the city.
The Muslims fought desperately and seven of the enemy's flagbearers
fell one after another. Utter confusion seized the Quraish. They
took to flight and the Muslims pursued them, but just at this time
Khalid saw that the Muslim archers had left their rear undefended
by vacating a certain position to join in the pursuit, and wheeling
round at the head of his 200 cavalry attacked the Muslims from behind.
Seeing this, the fleeing Quraish army also turned back, and the
handful of Muslims, in disorder on account of the pursuit, were
thus pressed on both sides.
The position was so precarious that the whole Muslim army was
now in danger of being annihilated. The Prophet, braving the danger
of himself becoming the target of the enemy's attack, called out
aloud to his men to rally round him:
"To me, O servants of Allah ! I am the Messenger;
This was a signal to the enemy to direct their attack to this particular
point. The Muslims saw this and, cutting their way through the enemy
ranks, mustered strongly round the Prophet. But in this attempt they
sustained serious losses, and Musab ibn Umair, who resembled the Prophet,
being killed, the news spread like wildfire that the Prophet had been
killed. Still the Muslims did not lose heart."Let us fight
on for the cause for which the Prophet fought," said one
of them. By this time, the Prophet had sustained serious wounds and
had fallen down, but the position had become secure both for the army
and for the Prophet himself who was surrounded on all sides by devoted
friends. Here closing their ranks on elevated ground with the mountain
protecting their retreat, they again made the enemy feel their strength.
The Quraish retired from the field and took their way back to Makka.
When some one entreated the Prophet to pray for the destruction of
his enemies, he raised his hands, saying:
"O Allah ! Forgive my-people: for they do not
Though they had this time inflicted severe losses on the Muslims,
the Quraish knew that even this attack on Madina had proved abortive.
Therefore after returning from Uhud, they tried to raise the Jews
and the Bedouin tribes against the Muslims, and in this they were
successful. The Jews, the Bedouins and the Quraish all combined to
deal a crushing blow to Islam. A large army of 100,000 was gathered
in the fifth year of the Flight. The Muslims, unable to meet these
hosts in the open field, fortified themselves in Madina by digging
a ditch on the side which was unprotected. The Prophet himself participated
in digging the ditch like an ordinary labourer. Covered with dust
and with the fear of annihilation lurking in their minds, they yet
sang in happy chorus:
O Allah ! Had it not been for Thy mercy, we would
not have been guided aright; Nor would we have given alms, nor would
we have prayed to Thee. Send down tranquillity upon us and establish
our steps in battle, For they are risen against us and they wish
to pervert us by force But we refuse, but we refuse.
The huge force at last reached Madina. It was an hour of consternation
for the Muslims. The Holy Quran thus depicts the anguish and perplexity
of the moment:
When they came upon you from above you and from below
you, and when the eyes turned dull and the hearts rose up to the
throats, and some of you began to entertain diverse thoughts about
Allah. There the believers were sorely tried and shaken with a severe
Amid this seeming scene of dread and terror, the hearts of the Muslims
were full of faith:
And when the believers saw the Allies, they said:
This is what Allah and His Messenger promised us, and Allah and
His Messenger spoke the truth; and it only increased them in faith
and submission. [33:32]
During a full month of siege the Muslims stood firm. Arrows and stones
came in terrible showers but they could not break through the defence.
Attacks were made and repulsed in quick succession. The siege became
wearisome to the besieging army, which also began to run short of
provisions. The elements of nature ultimately came to the help of
the brave Muslim defence. A storm raged one night which blew down
the tents of the besiegers. There was confusion among the Allies and
they took to flight during the night, to the great joy and thanksgiving
of the Muslims.