A LESSON FROM
THE BATTLE OF UHUD
The Meccans who had already proclaimed their resolved for vengeance now took in hand active preparations for the same. The traders among them set aside a portion of their profits for the expenses of war. The others contributed what they could and, after scheming and planning for one whole year, the Meccans were ready for the fight.
It was a Thursday in the third year of the Hijra. Three thousand Meccan warriors, armed to the teeth, bore down on Medina. Their women accompanied them to battle to applaud the brave and to chide the craven-hearted. Three miles to the north of Medina this army encamped at the foot of a hillock, called Uhud. They overran the meadows around Medina and ravaged the fields and pastures of the beleaguered town. A day later Muhammad (Salallaahu alaihi wasallam - Blessings of Allaah and peace be on him) assembled his companions once again and held a council of war. The consensus of opinion was that they should issue forth from the town and meet the enemy on his own ground. Muhammad (Salallaahu alaihi wasallam) differed with this view since his men were fewer and poorly equipped but he accepted what the majority desired. Throughout his career as a leader, he respected democratic opinion freely expressed and this remained a tradition with the Muslims for quite a period after him.
Against the enemy force of three thousand entrenched below Uhud, the Medinites mustered barely a thousand men. Of this number, three hundred were led by a traitor Abdullah Ibn Ubayy who marched with them only a little way and then deserted. This left only seven hundred men with the Commander of the Faithful. Just about a hundred out of these were protected by armour or coats of mail; only a few were mounted. What these warriors lacked in numbers and equipment, was more than made up by their fervour, their morale, and their confidence in victory. Muhammad (Salallaahu alaihi wasallam) went forth to command this small army and personally deployed them on the ground. To protect his rear against a surprise attack from a pass in the Uhud hills, he selected fifteen archers to cover this pass and ordered them to stick to their posts whatever happened. He then impressed upon the men that they were fighting for neither land nor possessions, nor bloodshed, but merely to defend the Word of God and to hold aloft the banner of truth.
In the battle of Uhud too the Meccans attacked first and once again the desperate courage of the defenders threw them into disarray. The invaders fought with equal courage this time but once the rout began, a good number among them fled the field with the Muslims in hot pursuit. In the confusion which followed the archers defending the pass in the Muslims rear deserted their posts and joined in the melee. Fighting on the side of Quraish was one of the most notable warriors of the time, Khalid, the son of Walid. He spied the undefended pass, rallied two hundred men and fell upon the Muslims from the rear. The Muslim ranks, already in disorderly pursuit of the enemy, were now thrown into further disorder and the complexion of the battle changed. Then a cry went round that Muhammad (Salallaahu alaihu wasallam) had been slain. The cry was taken up by Aisha (Radi-allaahu ia'ala anah - May Allaah be pleased with her), wife of Muhammad (Salallaahu alaihi wasallam), and by the other women nursing the wounded and fetching water for their men in the battle field. As the news spread, the Muslims suddenly lost heart. They tell of a Muslim soldier who stood leaning on his sword, sad and motionless, while the battle raged all round him. "Why don't you fight?" someone asked. "The Prophet is slain," the man replied. "What use are our lives then," his companion said, "if the most illustrious among us is gone."
This critical situation was retrieved at last. The Muslims rallied and went over to attack. The Meccans, tired out by a long and grueling day, began to retreat, and in their retreat vented their rage on the Muslims dead in the field, mutilating the corpses by chopping off their noses and ears. The wife of the Meccan leaders, Abu Sufyan, cut open the body of Muhammad's (Salallaalu alaihi wasallam) uncle, the warrior Hamza, and chewed up his liver.
This time it was the town of Medina which bewailed the loss of many of her brave men and mourned for the warriors fallen in the field. Some one came to a Medinite woman and broke the news that her father had been slain. "How fares our Prophet?" She asked ignoring his words. "Your brother is also dead," the informant said, "But how is the Prophet?" the woman persisted. "Your husband is also dead," the man said. "In God's name will no one tell me how my Prophet is?" And the woman set forth and hastened towards Uhud until she came upon Muhammad (Salallaahu alaihi wasallam). "Thank God," she said, "So long as you are alive our personal griefs are of little account."
The Meccan hordes, now on the way home, suddenly discovered that they had taken no prisoners, the only proof of victory. To restore the morale of their fellow tribesmen it was absolutely necessary for them to prove that they had won this time and without a single prisoner to boast of, this would be difficult. They stopped in their tracks and toyed with the idea of making another quick raid. Some Muslim scouts had followed their movements closely and immediately informed their Commander. Post-haste a Muslim party set out in pursuit. The Meccans abandoned their plan and hastened away with the remainder of their men. God, may He be exalted - said to them:
"And when you were afflicted with a calamity similar to one already experienced, you said: How is this? Say! It is from yourselves."
He also said to them:
"God made true His promise that you might test them with Him permission. Yet you failed and disputed concerning the matter. You rebelled after He had shown you what you loved. There are those among you who desire the world and those too who desire the hereafter. Then He turn you away from them that he might test you."
(Courtesy: Yaqeen International)