Seerah - Life of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)

21 - The Battle of Uhud

The Quraysh, who experienced a heavy defeat at Badr, were pressuring their leader Abu Sufyan to seek revenge from the Muslims and immediately begin preparations for battle. The goods of the caravan that had served as the catalyst for the Battle of Badr were being safeguarded in Dar an-Nadwa and were given to the command of Abu Sufyan, to be used against the Muslims. Alongside their feelings of vengeance, the Muslims’ blocking the Syria-Egypt trade route and their raids on Qurayshi caravans had the Makkans worried. One year after the Battle of badr, the Quraysh set off towards Madina with a force of 3,000 men, gathered with assistance from neighboring allied and related tribes. Prophet Muhammad did not want to fight the Quraysh – filled with the hatred and animosity of the Age of Ignorance and wanting to avenge Badr – outside Madina. However, upon the insistence of some youth who had not participated in Badr and some of the Helpers angered by the enemy forces’ destruction of their fields and orchards, the Prophet decided to set off for Uhud – 5.5 km away from the city – with a force of 1000 men. On the way, 'Abd Allah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul withdrew from the army with 300 of his men, returning to Madina. Reaching the foothills of Mount Uhud with the 700 remaining Companions, Prophet Muhammad gave the largest standard of the Muslims to Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr, the standard of the Aws tribe to Usayd ibn Khudayr, and the standard of the Khazraj tribe to Sa’d ibn Hubab. He posted fifty archers under the command of ‘Abd Allah ibn Jubayr to guard the rear, and ordered them not to leave their posts irrespective of the course of events during battle. The two forces met on 3 Shawwal (Saturday 3 March, 625) and the Muslims initially pushed the Quraysh back, forcing them to retreat. Seeing the enemy fleeing, the archers abandoned their posts despite the persistent commands of their commander ‘Abd Allah ibn Jubayr not to do so, and sought to collect the war spoils. Appreciating the strategic importance of the 'Aynayn pass just like Prophet Muhammad, the cavalry commander of the Makkan forces Khalid ibn Walid, in a single move that would change the course of the battle, attacked the Muslim army from behind when he saw that the archers had left their posts, killing the remaining archers. Following this move, the course of the battle changed in an instant and seventy Muslims were martyred, first and foremost the Prophet’s uncle Hamza. Among those killed were 'Abd Allah ibn Jahsh, Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr and 'Abd Allah ibn Jubayr. Prophet Muhammad was injured when the rings in his helmet pierced his temples, his bottom lip bled and one of his teeth were broken. Moreover, the fighting slowed down with the circulation of rumors that the Prophet had been killed. Retreating to the foothills of Mount Uhud, the Muslims gathered around Prophet Muhammad, while the Makkan polytheists gathered around Abu Sufyan; the two armies thus separated and the battle came to an end.

With their losses in the battle said to be 37 or 22-23 in the accounts, the Quraysh felt as though they had avenged their defeat at Badr; they had not been able to kill the Prophet, but martyred his uncle, Hamza. Abu Sufyan’s wife Hind bint ‘Utba, avenging the death of her father ‘Utba, brother Walid and uncle Shayba at Badr, removed Hamza’s liver and chewed it, and gave Wahshi, who killed Hamza with his spear, the reward she had promised him.

The polytheists’ mutilating the bodies of the Muslims martyred at Uhud, cutting off body parts such as their ears and nose (in a ritual known as musla) deeply distressed and saddened the Muslims and, in response to this, some of the Muslims wanted to reciprocate with exactly the same treatment of the bodies of the Makkan polytheists. However, they abandoned this idea upon the revelation of the 126th verse of the Qur’anic chapter entitled Al-Nahl directly relating to this and the specific injunctions of the Prophet.

Prophet Muhammad never forgot those martyred at Uhud, visiting them every year and revisiting them in the last days before his demise. The Battle of Uhud came to be remembered by Muslims in succeeding generations, serving as a reminder to take the necessary lessons therein.

Around ten women Companions participated in the Battle of Uhud and carried out such services as distribution of water to the troops and tending to the wounded. Among them was the Prophet’s freed slave Umm Ayman, as well as Umm 'Umara, his daughter Fatima, his wife ‘A’isha and Umm Sulaym. Umm Sulaym, in particular, personally fought alongside the Prophet when the situation for the Muslims worsened and Fatima nursed the Prophet when he was wounded.

It is important to note in relation to the Battle of Uhud that had the Muslims dealt a huge blow to the Quraysh as they had at Badr, the Prophet’s reaching his actual aim, that is winning over the Quraysh, would perhaps have been made more difficult. The feelings of hatred and revenge fostered by the Age of Ignorance mind-set, would have continued and heightened within the tribe and the possibilities presented by the Treaty of Hudaybiya would not have been realized. (There were specific verses revealed in relation to the Battle of Uhud. See: Al-‘Imran, 3:120 and especially verses 139-142; 156; 165.)



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