The Battle of Uhud
Ghazwat-us-Sawiq was only a prelude to the big battle that was to follow. The chagrin and fury of the Quraish at their defeat at Badr knew no bounds. Their whole energy was aroused and they commenced preparations for another attack on the Muslims. The tribes of Tihamah and Kinanah joined them. Their united forces numbered three thousand well equipped soldiers under the command of Abu Sufyan. This army marched towards Medina and occupied a vantage position near the hills of Uhud, a short distance of three miles from Medina. Muhammad (s.a.w.) marched out with only a thousand men. On the way, 'Abdullah ibn Ubay with three hundred of his followers, the munafiqun, deserted the believers, and the Prophet was left with only seven hundred men. Only a hundred of them had coats of mail, and between them they had only two horses. Their zeal was, however, so great that when some boys, who were considered too young to participate in the battle, were asked to go back, they departed very reluctantly and two of them, Raft' ibn Khadij and Samrah, managed to remain with the army anyway.
The Prophet took up his position below the hill. The army was arrayed in fighting formations and fifty archers were posted, under the command of 'Abdullah ibn Jubayr, at a pass between the hills to guard the army from any attack from the rear. They had strict orders not to leave their post, whatever the outcome of the battle might be. The standard was in the hands of Mus'ab ibn'Umayr. Zubayr was in command of the mailed section and Hamza in command of the rest. On the side of the Meccans, Talhah held the standard and the various regiments were under the charge of Khalid ibn al-Walid, 'Ikrimah ibn Abu jahl, Safwan ibn Umayyah and 'Abdullah ibn Umayyah. Talhah challenged the Muslims to individual combat. The challenge was accepted by 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and very soon Talhah's dead body lay on the ground. The standard was taken by his brother 'Uthman who was slashed by Hamza. A general engagement then started. 'Ali, Hamza and Abu Dajjanah gave heroic accounts of their valor.
An Abyssinian slave, Wahshi, had been commissioned by Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan, to kill either Muhammad (s.a.w.), 'Ali, or Hamza (in order to avenge the death of her father 'Utbah ibn Rabi'ah, her brother al-Walid as well as that of Hanzalah son of Abu Sufyan at Badr at their hands). He singled Hamza out and threw a spear at him, which pierced his abdomen and killed him.
On the Meccan side, one standard-bearer after another met his end at the hands of 'Ali. The Meccans were losing heart till one of their women, 'Umrah daughter of 'Alqamah, took up the standard. The Meccans again rallied behind her but the Muslims crushed them. The Meccans, having paid a heavy toll, fell back in disarray and the Muslims started gathering the booty. Thinking that the battle battle was over, most of the archers who were guarding the passage in the hill left their posts lured by the spoils even against the orders of their leader'Abdullah ibn Jubayr. Khalid ibn al-Walid was fleeing when he saw such an opportunity and, gathering a group and killing the few remaining defenders of the pass, launched a furious attack from the rear. The Muslims were taken so much by surprise that they did not know what to do. In the general melee their ranks became disorganized. The retreating Meccan forces rallied again and launched a fresh onslaught from the front. The Muslim standard-bearer, Mu'sab ibn 'Umayr, who bore a great facial resemblance to the Prophet, was killed. Up went the cry that the Prophet had been killed. This threw the Muslims into further confusion and utter dismay. Even many of their famous personalities lost heart. 'Umar threw away his sword saying there was no use fighting since the Prophet was no more. He fled towards the mountain and, in his own words, he was jumping from one boulder to another like mountain goats. Abu Bala and 'Uthman also fled, the latter returning to Medina after three days.
On the other hand, many valiant soldiers, renouncing all discretion, entered the thick of the Meccan ranks determined to fight to the end. This went on till Ka'ab ibn Malik saw the Prophet and shouted at the top of his voice that the Prophet was still alive. The spirit of the Muslims revived, but the Prophet now became the chief target of the Meccan forces. 'Abdullah ibn Qama'a advanced towards the Prophet and struck a sword on his head with such force that two links of his helmet penetrated the Prophet's face. Utbah ibn Abi Waqqas threw a stone at the Prophet, further injuring his face and dislodging his two upper teeth. The Prophet now had fallen in a pit where 'Ali ibn Abi Talib found him and protected him against the continuous furious onslaughts of the Meccans. When the Prophet saw this sacrificing spirit of 'Ali, he asked him as to why did he too not flee like the others. 'Ali replied: "Should I become kafir after having accepted Islam?"
When 'Ali's sword broke down, the Holy Prophet gave him his own sword Dhul-Fiqar. It was then that a voice was heard from above saying, "There is no sword except Dhul-Fiqar. There is no hero except Ali."
At the same time, Jibril told the Holy Prophet that it was the height of loyalty and bravery which 'Ali was demonstrating towards the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet said: "Why not? 'Ali is from me and I am from 'Ali." Jibril said: "And I am from you both."
Later, some Muslims, like Sad, Zubayr, Talhah, Abu Dajjanah and Ziyad, gathered round the Holy Prophet.
Faithful companions, including the brave lady Ummu 'Ammarah, prevented others from getting too close to the Prophet. With their bodies did they shield him against the rain of arrows. Standing in such a great peril, the Prophet cried to God: "O God! Forgive my people, for they know not!" There was no rancor, no bitterness, and no ill-will in his heart against his mortal enemies even in such a precarious situation. An overwhelming compassion for the people and a burning desire to lead them to the right path actuated all his deeds and sayings. Then some other Muslims arrived where the Prophet was being defended at fearful odds by the small band of his companions. After some furious fighting, they managed to take the Prophet to the security of a cave in the heights of Uhud.
Meanwhile, the word had reached Medina that the Prophet was killed. The Prophet's daughter, Fatimah al-Zahra, surrounded by a group of Muslim women, hurried to Uhud. To her great relief, Fatimah found her father alive but his forehead and face were covered with his own blood. 'Ali brought water in his shield and Fatimah cleansed and dressed the wounds.
The Meccan forces had turned the tables but they were too exhausted to drive their advantage home either by attacking Medina or by driving the Muslims from the heights of the hill. They satiated their desire for vengeance by committing ghastly brutalities upon the slain and the injured, cutting off their ears and noses and mutilating their bodies. The brave Hamza was amongst the slain. Hind cut off his ears and nose and took out his heart and liver. She tried to chew the liver but Allah made it so hard that she could not do so... She had to throw it out. The horrible scene was so revolting that the Prophet forbade forever the practice of mutilation.
In this battle, seventy Muslims were martyred and an equal number of them were wounded. 'Ali received sixteen serious sword wounds. The Meccans lost 30 (or 22) warriors twelve of whom at the hands of 'Ali.
With victory almost within their grasp, the Muslims had suffered a heavy blow. They were shaken in body and in spirit. But the Prophet preached to them fortitude and endurance. For those who laid their lives in the way of Allah, the following glad tiding had been revealed:
And reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are sustained by their Lord. (Qur'an, 3:169)
While retreating to Mecca, Abu Sufyan had bribed a traveler going towards Medina to inform the Holy Prophet that the Meccans were again assembling a great force to attack Medina. Hearing the news, 'Ali said: "Allah is sufficient for us and most excellent Protector is He."
The Holy Prophet went out at once, taking with him only those seventy warriors who were wounded in Uhud, to pursue the Meccan forces. He stayed for three days at a place called Hamra'ul-Asad but did not find any trace of the Meccans, so he returned. The Qur'an mentions this episode in the following ayat:
Those who responded to the call of Allah and the Messenger even after the wound had afflicted them, those among them who do good and guard (themselves against evil) shall have a great reward. Those to whom the people said: Surely men have gathered against you; therefore, fear them, but this only increased their faith, and they said: Allah is sufficient for us and most excellent Protector is He. So they returned with favor from Allah and (His) grace; no evil touched them, and they followed the pleasure of Allah, and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace. (Qur'an, 3:172-174)
The defeat at Uhud did, indeed, create serious difficulties for the Muslims. It emboldened the nomadic tribes on the one hand to make forays upon Medina and, on the other hand, encouraged the Jews of Medina to foment further trouble. Yet it was not disastrous for the Muslims. While a defeat at Badr, when the Muslims were yet a handful would have wiped them out and spelt the death knell of the Prophetic mission, a defeat here and there after Islam had gained strength only put the Muslims in the testing crucible so that they might emerge more determined and cured of any complacency and vanity to which they might have otherwise fallen prey.
The Meccans were determined to annihilate the Muslims. This objective they could not achieve. Their infantry had suffered such losses that they could not even drive home the advantage they gained in the last stages of the battle. They had thought they were the masters of all western Arabia, but they could do nothing more than hold their own against the Muslims. It is not surprising, therefore, that they marched back to Mecca frustrated and discouraged.
The Meccans realized that on their own they could not crush the Islamic movement. They ,now started instigating other tribes to make common causewith them. Most of the tribes were already inimical to Islam. They practiced idolatry while Islam forbade it and enjoined worship of one God. Raiding and plundering were the general means of their livelihood while Islam dictated an orderly society, forbidding oppression, exploitation, and foul play. It enjoined its followers to seek honest means of livelihood. The influence of the Quraish extended far and wide and all the tribes came into contact with them at the time of the annual pilgrimage. The Jews were also constantly instigating the tribes against the Muslims. The victory of the Muslims over the Quraish at Badr had overawed nomadic tribes but their defeat at Uhud emboldened them to show their hands and a number of skirmishes followed.
Sariyah Abu Salamah
The first of these forays was Sariyah Abu Salamah. Talhah and Khalid instigated their tribe, Banu Asad, to attack Medina on the first of Muharram of 4 A.H. The Prophet dispatched a force of one hundred and fifty men to intercept them. The invaders dispersed on seeing this force and there was no engagement.
Sariyah Ibn Anis
In the same month (4 A.H.), Sufyan ibn Khalid of the Banu Lahyan prepared to attack Medina. The Prophet sent 'Abdullah ibn Anis with a force to meet him. 'Abdullah was killed. Hostile critics say that the Prophet got the chiefs of some tribes killed to overawe them. They quote Arab historians like al-Waqidi, Ibn Hisham and Ibn al-Athir in recounting the names of the persons killed, but they very conveniently omit the details and circumstances given by the same authorities regarding the raids they were committing or the preparations they were making to assault Medina. The Prophet could not ignore the danger that surrounded the Muslims; he would not allow them to be exterminated.
Treachery at Bir Ma'unah
The tribes were not only repeatedly raiding Medina but also employing treacherous methods to deplete the Muslim's ranks and resources. In Safar of 4 A.H., Abu Bara' of Banu Kalb approached the Prophet to lend the services of his companions to preach to his tribe and to instruct them in the way of Islam. Seventy pious disciples were sent with him but, with the exception of one person, namely Abr ibn Umayyah, the entire party was put to death when it reached Bi'r Ma'unah.
The Foul play at Raji
Likewise, the tribes of Adh'al and Quarah sent a deputation to the Prophet to inform him that they had accepted Islam and needed some instructors. He sent ten disciples with them. On reaching Raji', the envoys instigated Banu Lahyan to kill seven of the disciples and to capture the rest. The captives were sold at Mecca and those who purchased them put them to death. One of the captives was Zaid. A crowd, including Abu Sufyan, assembled to see him being slaughtered. Abu Sufyan inquired of him if he would not have considered himself lucky had Muhammad been there to be slaughtered in his place. The devoted attachment of Zaid to the Prophet can be gauged from the reply he gave. He said: "By God, I do not value my life even this much that in its place a thorn may pierce the sole of the Prophet's foot." He was thereupon slashed to death.
The Attitude of the Jews
For a long time, the Jews were masters of Medina. The tribes of Aws and money lending at exorbitant rates of interest was Khazraj (the Ansar) had settled there later. Gradually, these tribes gathered strength and equaled the Jews in power and prestige. The internecine war of the Bu'ath, however, weakened them, and the Jews again assumed ascendancy. The Jews were a prosperous people and one of their main occupations. With the deterioration in the economic situation of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj, many of them became heavily in debt to the Jews. The position of authority and eminence, which their material superiority and strength gave to the Jews, received a big setback when Islam started spreading in Medina. They therefore, viewed the expansion of Islam with great disfavor and apprehension. Expediency had actuated them into entering into a pact with the Muslims, but soon they began plotting against Islam. They would distort the words and verses of the Qur'an and mock and jeer at the Muslims. Nevertheless, the Prophet was bidden to bear it patiently:
.... And you shall certainly hear from those who have been given the Book before you and from those who are polytheists much annoying talk, and if you are patient and guard (yourself against evil), surely this is one of the matters of great resolve. (Qur'an, 3:186)
The Prophet tried his best to maintain friendly ties with the Jews. The Qur'an stressed the fundamental unity between the two religions and asked the Jews to come to terms with the Muslims:
Say: O people of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: That we shall not worship any but Allah and (that) we shall associate nothing with Him, and (that) some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah, but if they turn back, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims. (Qur'an, 3:64)
Neither kindness nor fair dealing on the part of the Prophet could, however, conciliate the Jews. They tried to revive the rift between the tribes of Aws and Khazraj. Some Jews would accept Islam one day and renounce it the next in order to show that there was nothing (important) in Islam.
And a party of the people of the Book say: Profess faith in that which has been revealed to those who believe in the first part of the day and disbelieve therein at the end of it, perhaps they will go back on their religion. (Qur'an, 3:72)
They conspired with the munafiqun and sent emissaries to the enemies of Islam. Apprehension and envy at the growing power of the Muslims following their victory at Badr rankled in their hearts, and they redoubled their efforts to exterminate the new religion. The Quraish were further instigating them to do so, sending a threatening epistle to them:
"You possess arms and fortresses. You should fight our enemy (Muhammad); otherwise, we will attack you and nothing will prevent us from grabbing the arms of your women."
Ka'ab ibn Ashraf, a Jewish chieftain of Banu Nadhir, was a poet of considerable fame. Like so many others, he was bitterly hostile to Islam. With his fiery poems, he began to incite the people to rise up against the Muslims. After the battle of Badr, he composed a number of eulogies mourning the Meccan chiefs slain in the battle. He used to recite them at every gathering. He contacted Abu Sufyan with a view to making a combined effort to wipe out the Muslims. He openly recited a number of poems derogatory to the Prophet. As poetry had a high place in the life of the Arabs and could deepen influence and sway feelings, Ka'ab ibn Ashraf had become not only a nuisance but a serious menace. We have it on the authority of al-Ya'qubi and Hafiz Ibn Hajar that Ka'ab plotted to kill the Prophet. When the Prophet knew this plot, he consulted his companions and it was decided that Ka'ab should be silenced forever. Muhammad ibn Maslamah undertook to carry out the job and, on getting an opportunity, he sent Ka'ab ibn Ashraf to hell.
The Banu Qinaqa', the most powerful Jewish tribe, were the first to resile from the alliance with the Muslims. Says Ibn Sa'd, "The Jews attempted sedition during the battle of Badr and were envious of the Muslims, retracting from their pact with them."
As mentioned earlier, an incident in 2 A.H. led to a flare-up. A veiled Muslim lady had gone to the shop of a Jew. She was pestered and her clothes thrown up. A Muslim standing nearby was unable to tolerate this indecent behavior, so he killed the Jew. The Jews, thereupon, killed the Muslim. The Prophet remonstrated with them but they defiantly replied that they were not (as weak as) Quraish (who were defeated in Badr) and would show him what battle was. Within the security of their fortress, they started making preparations for war. The Muslims besieged the fortress for fifteen days and the Jews had to sue for peace, promising that they would accept the Prophet's decision. The Prophet banished them, allowing them to take all their movable possessions to Syria. Some European critics see only the immediate cause, that is, the indecent behavior with the Muslim lady and, ascribing it to boyish prank, they try to minimize it. In their view, therefore, the punishment was too harsh, but they fail to take notice of the constant efforts of the Jews to undermine the Islamic movement. It was not one incident but a series of events that had brought on the final clash.
Expulsion of the Bann Nadhir (Rabi 1, 4 A.H.)
The banishment of the Banu Qinaqa' enraged its sister tribe, the Banu Nadhir. Encouraged by the Meccans and by 'Abdullah ibn Ubay, they plotted to kill the Prophet. Once the Holy Prophet, together with some companions, were there to seek their help in arranging the payment of blood-money of two persons from the tribe of 'Amir. The Jews asked the Holy Prophet to come inside their fortress, but the Holy Prophet did not like the idea. Instead, he sat outside the wall of the fortress. They sent one man to climb the wall from inside the fortress and to kill the Holy Prophet by throwing a big boulder on his head.
The Holy Prophet, through divine revelation, came to know of this treacherous scheme in nick of time and immediately left the place.
Then he sent Banu Nadhir an ultimatum with Muhammad ibn Maslamah that, since they had broken their treaty, they should leave Medina in ten days. They wanted to migrate when 'Abdullah ibn Ubay encouraged them not to leave Medina, promising them help with 2000 warriors. The Jews then refused to leave Medina. The following ayats refer to this promise of help:
Have you not seen those who have become hypocrites? They say to those of their brethren who disbelieve from among the people of the
Book: If you are driven forth, we shall certainly go forth with you, and we will never obey anyone concerning you, and if you are fought, we will certainly help you, and Allah bears witness that they are most surely liars. Certainly, if these are driven forth, they will not go forth with them, and if they are fought, they will not help them, and even if they help there, they will certainly turn (their) backs, then they shall not be helped. (Qur'an, 59: 11-12)
Their fortress was besieged, and 'Abdullah ibn Ubay did nothing to help them. After 15 days, they agreed to leave Medina. They were allowed to take away-`all their movables, which they could take except weapons of war.
They did not like the idea of leaving their houses to be occupied by the Muslims, so they demolished them. The Qur'an refers to the various aspects of this expulsion in Sura 59. For example, their migration and the destructing of their houses at their own hands is referred to in this ayat:
He it is who caused those who disbelieved from among the people of the Book to go forth from their homes at the first banishment, you did not
think that they would go forth, while they were certain that their fortresses would defend them against Allah, but Allah came to them from
where they did not expect and cast terror into their hearts: they demolished their houses with their own hands and the hands of the believers; therefore, take a lesson, O you who have eyes! (Qur'an, 59:2)
They passed through Medina's market singing and beating drums to show that they were not disheartened by that banishment and that they would soon avenge this defeat. Some of them went to Syria while others settled with the Jews of Khaybar.
Since there was no war, according to the command of Allah (see Sura 59, verses 6 to 10), all the wealth left by them became the personal property of the Holy Prophet who, having consulted with the Ansar, distributed all movable property to poor Muhajirun and three poor companions from the Ansar: Sahl ibn Hanif, Abu Dajjanah and Zaid. He gave the immovable property to 'All ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) who made it waqf (endowment) for the descendants of Fatimah (s.a.).
The 59th Chapter of the Qur'an (The Banishment) describes various aspects of Banu Nadhir' s expulsion.