The Muslims who had gone to Medinah, had left all their belongings behind in Mecca and these had been taken by their enemies. Thus, when the Muslims heard that Abu Sufyan, one of the leaders of Quraysh, was on his way back to Mecca from Syria with a large caravan of goods, they decided that the time had come for them to retrieve some of their losses. The Prophet (pbuh) gave the Muslims permission for this attack and everyone began to get ready for the raid, for it had been revealed:
“Permission to fight is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is surely able to give them victory” (Qur’an 22.39)
“The Revelation had mentioned that a thing most serious with Allah was to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Holy Mosque, and to drive his people from there…for persecution is worse than killing”. (Qur’an 2.217)
The retrieval of their goods, however, was not their only reason for wanting to attack the caravan. The Muslims did not think they should simply remain safely in Medinah; they wanted to spread the message of Islam. They thus felt that if Quraysh wanted freedom to trade in safety, then the Muslims must also have freedom to believe in Allah, to follow His Messenger (pbuh), and spread His Word. It was, therefore, thought that the best, and only way to get Quraysh to understand this was to attack what was most important to them-a caravan.
Abu Sufyan, in the meantime, heard about the Muslims’ plan and quickly sent a message to Quraysh in Mecca, telling them that the caravan was in danger and asking for help. As a result nearly all Quraysh came out to help him defend the caravan. There were a thousand men and two hundred horses. The women also went along to cheer the men on with their singing. Unaware of this, the Prophet (pbuh) set out with his followers. It was the month of Ramadan and the Muslims were fasting.
There were only three hundred and five of them, most of them Ansar, men from Medinah. With them they had three horses and seventy camels, on which they rode in turns.
They arrived in the area of Badr, some distance from Medinah where they made camp and waited for news of the caravan. Then they heard that Quraysh had set out from Mecca with a strong army. The situation had suddenly changed. They were no longer going to make a raid on a
caravan-they were going to have to fight Quraysh. The Prophet (pbuh) gathered his men around him to find out what they wanted to do. First Abu Bakr, and then „Umar, spoke for the Muslims who had come from Mecca. They said they would obey the Prophet (pbuh). But the Prophet (pbuh) wanted to hear the opinion of the Ansar, because he did not want to force them into doing something they did not want to do. Sa‟d Ibn Mu‟adh, one of the leaders of the Ansar, got up and said, we believe in you and we swear before all men that what you have brought is the truth.
We have given you our word and agreement to hear and obey. So go where you wish, we are with you even if you should lead us into the sea!
The Prophet (pbuh) was greatly encouraged by these words and so it was agreed to fight. Abu Sufyan learned where the Muslims were camped. He changed the course of the caravan and quickly took it out of their reach. He then sent word to Quraysh telling them that the caravan was safe and that they should return to Mecca. But the leaders of Quraysh were proud and stubborn men. They refused to return as they had made up their minds to show everyone how powerful they were by destroying the Muslims.Now there was a wadi, or valley, at Badr, with wells on the side nearest Medina, and it was here that the Muslims took up position facing the valley with the wells behind them.
Quraysh meanwhile placed themselves on the other side of the valley. The Muslims then dug a reservoir, filled it with water from one of the wells, and made a barrier around it. Then they stopped up the wells. In this way the Muslims had enough drinking water for themselves, while the Meccans would have to cross the valley and fight the Muslims in order to get water. The night before the battle, while the Muslims slept peacefully, a heavy rain fell.
“When He made the slumber fall upon you as a reassurance from Him and sent down water from the sky upon you, in order that He might purify you, and remove from you the fear of Satan, and strengthen your hearts and make firm (your) fret thereby”. (Qur’an 8.11) On the morning of Friday, the 17th of Ramadan, 2 A.H., (March 17th, AD), the two armies advanced and drew closer to one another. The rain been heavier on the side of Quraysh, making the ground soft and difficult. On the side of the Muslims, however, the rain had backed the sand down hard, making it easy for them to march. The Prophet (pbuh) preferred the men to fight in ranks. As they prepared to march he noticed someone had stepped out in front of the others.
The Prophet (pbuh)prodded him in the side with an arrow, saying, ‘Stand in line!’ The man, Sawad, exclaimed, ‘You have hurt me, O Messenger of Allah! Allah has sent you to be just and good.’ Prophet (pbuh) lifted his shirt and said, ‘Then do the same to me. The man approached and kissed him on the spot instead, saying, ‘0 Messenger of Allah, you see what is before us and I may not survive the battle. If this is my last time with you, I want the last thing I do in life to be this.’Shortly after he went into battle, Sawad died a martyr. Having examined the ranks, the Prophet (pbuh) then went to a shelter made of palm branches from which he could command the battle. Abu Bakr stayed with him, while Sa‟d ibn Mu’adh, with several of the Ansar, stood outside guarding the hut. When the Prophet (pbuh) saw the enormous Quraysh army descending the hill into the valley, with all their banners and drums, he began to pray for the help which Allah had promised him. These were some of his words. ‘0 Allah, here come Quraysh full of vanity and pride, who oppose Thee and call Thy Messenger a liar. O Allah, if this little band (the Muslims) perishes today, there will be none left in the land to worship Thee.’
“When ye sought help of your Lord and He answered you (saying): I will help you with a thousand of the angels, rank on rank. Allah appointed it only as good tidings, and that your hearts might thereby be at ease. Victory cometh only by the help of Allah. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise”. (Qur’an 8. 9-10)
At first the battle began in single combat when one of Quraysh swore that he would drink from the Muslims’ reservoir and then destroy it, or die in the attempt. Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle, came forward to face him and killed him. Three of the most important men of Quraysh then stepped forward and gave out a challenge for single combat. The Prophet (pbuh) sent out ‘Ali, Hamzah, and „Ubaydah ibn al-Harith, to face them. It was not long before Hamzah and „Ali had killed their opponents.
As for ‘Ubaydah, he had wounded his enemy but was wounded himself, and so his two companions killed the wounded Meccan and carried ‘Ubaydah back to the safety of the Muslim ranks. After this, the two armies attacked each other and fighting broke out all around. The sky was filled with arrows. The Muslim army held its ground against the great army of Quraysh and even though the Muslims were much fewer in number, they gained a great victory, destroying the Meccan army and killing most of its leaders. Among the leading Meccans who died were Abu Jahl and Umayyah ibn Khalaf, who was killed by his former slave, Bilal. Seeing that their leaders were nearly all dead, the remainder of Quraysh retreated. The Prophet (pbuh) sent word to Medinahto tell them
of the victory. He then gathered up the spoils of war and divided them equally among the Muslims. Some of the Meccans had been taken prisoner and the Prophet (pbuh) gave orders that they should be treated well until their relatives from among Quraysh came to fetch them.
“Ye (Muslims) did not slay them, but Allah slew them and thou (Muhammad) threwest not when thou didst throw, but Allah threw, so that He might test the believers by a fair test from Him. Lo! Allah is All- hearing, All-Knowing”. (Qur’an 8.17)