The Battle of Badr - The Story and Reasons

The Al-‘Ushairah Invasion when a caravan belonging to Quraish had escaped an imminent military encounter with Rasulullah and his companions. When their return from Syam approached, Rasulullah dispatched Talhah bin ‘Ubaidullah RA and Sa‘id bin Zaid RA northward to scout around for any movements of this sort. They stayed at Al-Hawra’ until Abu Sufyan leader of the caravan passed. The two men hurried back to Madinah and reported to Rasulullah ﷺ of their findings. 

Illustration Only: The scene of Muslim Army in Ghazwah Al Badr.

Great wealth amounting to 50 thousand gold Dinars guarded by 40 men moving relatively close to Madinah constituted a tempting target for the Muslim military and provided a potentially heavy economic, political and military strike that was bound to shake the entire structure of the Makkan polytheists.

Rasulullah immediately exhorted the Muslims to rush out and waylay the caravan to make up for their property and wealth they were forced to give up in Makkah. He did not give orders binding to everyone, but rather gave them full liberty to go out or stay back, thinking that it would be just an errand on a small scale.

The Muslim army was made up of 300-317 men, 82-86 Muhajirin, 61 from Aws and 170 from Khazraj – the Ansari. They were not well-equipped nor adequately prepared. They had only two horses belonging to Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam RA and Al-Miqdad bin Al-Aswad Al-Kindi RA, 70 camels, one for two or three men to ride alternatively. Rasulullah himself, Ali Ibn Abi Talib RA and Murthid bin Abi Murthid Al-Ghanawi RA had only one camel. Disposition of the affairs of Madinah was entrusted to Ibn Umm Maktum RA but later to Abu Lubabah bin ‘Abdul Mundhir RA. The general leadership was given to Musa’ab bin ‘Umair Al-Quraishi Al-‘Abdari RA and their standard were white in color.

Illustration Only: The Battle Strategem of Badr.
The little army was divided into two battalions, the Mujahidin with a standard raised by ‘Ali bin Abi Talib RA, and the Ansari whose standard was in the hand of Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh RA. Az-Zubair ibn Al-‘Awwam RA was appointed to the leadership of the right flank, Al-Miqdad bin ‘Amr RA to lead the left flank, and the rear of the army was at the command of Qais bin Abi Sa‘sa‘ah RA. The General Commander-in-Chief was Rasulullah , of course.

Rasulullah at the head of his army marched out along the main road leading to Makkah. Rasulullah then turned left towards Badr and when he reached As-Safrâ’, he dispatched two men to scout about for the camels of Quraish.

Abu Sufyan, on the other hand, was on the utmost alert. He had already been aware that the route he was following was attended with dangers. He was also anxious to know about the movements of Rasulullah .

His scouting men submitted to him reports to the effect that the Muslims were lying in ambush for his caravan. To be on the safe side, he hired Damdam bin ‘Amr Al-Ghifari to communicate a message asking for help from the Quraishites. The messenger rode fast and reached Makkah in a rushing manner. Fells from his camel, he stood dramatically before Al-Kaabah, cut off the nose and the ears of the camel, turned its saddle upside down, tore off his own shirt from front and behind, and cried: "O Quraish! Your merchandise! It is with Abu Sufyan. The caravan is being intercepted by Rasulullah and his companions. I cannot say what would have happened to them. Help! Help!"

The effect of this hue and cry was instantaneous and the news stunned Quraish and they immediately remembered their pride that was wounded when the Muslims had intercepted Al-Hadrami caravan. They therefore swiftly assemble almost all of their forces and none stayed behind except Abu Lahab, who delegated someone who owed him some money. They also mobilized some Arab tribes to contribute to the war against Rasulullah ﷺ.

The Decisive Battle of Truth against Falsehood.
All the clans of Quraish gave their consent except Banu ‘Adi. Soon an excited throng of 1300 soldiers including 100 horsemen and 600 mailed soldiers with a large number of camels was clamoring to proceed to fight the Muslims. For food supplies, they used to slaughter an alternate number of ten camels  and nine every day. They were afraid that Banu Bakr, on account of old long deep-seated animosity, would attack their rear. At that critical moment, Iblis (Satan) appeared to them in the guise of Suraqa bin Malik bin Ju‘sham Al-Mudlaji — chief of Bani Kinanah — saying to them: "I guarantee that no harm will happen from behind."

They set out burning with indignation, motivated by a horrible desire for revenge and exterminating anyone that might jeopardize the routes of their caravans:
"…boastfully and to be seen of men, and hinder (men) from the path of Allâh.”
[Al-Qur'an 8:47]
Or as  Rasulullah said:
"O Allâh these are the haughty and conceited; they have come defying Allâh and defying His Messenger."

They moved swiftly northward to Badr. On their way they received another message from Abu Sufyan asking them to go back home because the caravan had escaped the Muslims. Incidentally, Abu Sufyan, on learning the intention of the Muslims, led his caravan off the main route and inclined it towards the Red Sea. By this maneuver, he was able to slip past the army of Rasulullah ambush and was out of their reach.

On receiving Abu Sufyan’s message, the Makkan army showed a desire to return home. The tyrant Abu Jahl however haughtily and arrogantly insisted that they proceed to Badr, stay three nights there for making festivities. Now they wanted to punish the Muslims and prevent them from intercepting their caravans, and impress on the Arabs that Quraish still had the upper hand and enjoyed supremacy in that area.

Illustration Only: The Battle Formation
Abu Jahl’s threats and insistence notwithstanding, Banu Zahrah, acting on the advice of Al-Akhnas bin Shuraiq, broke away and returned to Makkah. Thenceforth Al-Akhnas remained ‘the well-rubbed palm tree’ for Bani Zahrah and was blindly obeyed in all relevant matters. Banu Hashim was also inclined to break away, but Abu Jahl’s threats made them desist from that idea.

The rest of the army, now 1000 soldiers, approached Badr and encamped themselves beyond a sand dune at Al-‘Udwat Al-Quswa. The intelligence corps’ of  Rasulullah army reported to  Rasulullah that a bloody encounter with the Makkans was inescapable, and that a daring step in this context had to be taken, or else the forces of evil would violate the inviolable and would consequently manage to undermine the noble cause of the Islam and tread upon its faithful adherents. The Muslims were afraid that the pagan Makkans would march on and start the war activities within the headquarters of Islam, Madinah. A move of such nature would certainly damage and produce an infamous impact on the dignity and stance of the Muslims.

On account of the new grave developments, Rasulullah held an advisory military emergency meeting to review the ongoing situation and exchange viewpoints with the army leaders. Admittedly, some Muslims feared the horrible encounter and their courage began to waver; in this regard, Allâh says:

"As your Lord caused you (O Muhammad [PBUH]) to go out from your home with the Truth, and verily, a party among the believers disliked it, disputing with you concerning the Truth after it was made manifest, as if they were being driven to death while they were looking (at it)." 
[Al-Qur'an 8:5, 6]

Rasulullah apprised his men of the gravity of the situation and asked for their advice. Abu Bakr RA was the first who spoke on the occasion and assured Rasulullah of the unreserved obedience to his command. ‘Umar RA was the next to stand up and supported the views expressed by his noble friend.

Then Al-Miqdad bin ‘Amr RA got up and said: "O Rasulullah! Proceed where Allâh directs you to, for we are with you. We will not say as the Children of Israel said to Moses: "Go you and your Lord and fight and we will stay here;"

Rather we shall say:

"Go you and your Lord and fight and we will fight along with you."

By Allâh! If you were to take us to Bark Al-Ghimad, we will still fight resolutely with you against its defenders until you gained it."

Rasulullah thanked him and blessed him.

The three leaders who spoke were from the Emigrants, who only constituted a minor section of the army. Rasulullah wanted, and for the more reason, to hear the Ansaris’ view because they were the majority of the soldiers and were expected to shoulder the brunt of the war activities. Moreover, the clauses of Al-‘Aqabah Pledge did not commit them to fighting beyond their territories.

Rasulullah then said:
"Advise me my men!"
By which Rasulullah meant Ansari, in particular. Upon this Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh RA stood up and said: "By Allâh, I feel you want us to speak." Rasulullah directly said: "Oh, yes!" Sa‘d said: "O Rasul of Allâh! We believe in you and we bear witness to what you have asserted safety to us and we declare in unequivocal terms that what you have brought is the Truth. We give you our firm pledge of obedience and sacrifice. 

We will obey you most willingly in whatever you command us, and by Allâh, Who has sent you with the Truth, if you were to ask us to plunge into the sea, we will do that most readily and not a man of us will stay behind. We do not grudge the idea of facing the enemy. We are experienced in war and we are trustworthy in combat. We hope that Allâh will show you through our hands those deeds of valor which will please your eyes. Kindly lead us to the battlefield in the Name of Allâh."

Rasulullah was impressed with the fidelity and the spirit of sacrifice which his companions showed at this critical juncture. Then  Rasulullah said to them: "Forward and be of cheer, for Allâh has promised me one of the two (the lucrative course through capturing the booty or strife in the cause of Allâh against the polytheists), and by Allâh it is as if I now saw the enemy lying prostrate."

In the immediate vicinity of Badr, Rasulullah and his cave companion Abu Bakr RA conducted a scouting operation during which they managed to locate the camp of Quraish. They came across an old Bedouin nearby whom they manipulated and managed to extract from him the exact location of the army of the polytheists. In the evening of the same day, he dispatched three Emigrant leaders, ‘Ali bin Abi Talib RA, Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam RA and Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqas RA to scout about for news about the enemy.

They saw two men drawing water for the Makkan army. On interrogation, they admitted that they were water carriers working for Quraish. But that answer did not please some Muslims and they beat the two boys severely in order to exact from them an answer, even if it isn’t true, alluding to the caravan laden with wealth.

The two boys thus lied, and so they were released. Rasulullah was angry with those men and censured them saying: "On telling the truth, you beat them, and on telling a lie, you released them!" Rasulullah then addressed the two boys and after a little conversation with them, he learned a lot about the enemy: number of soldiers, their exact spot, and names of some of their notables.

Rasulullah then turned to the Muslims and said: 
"Hearken, Quraish has sent you their most precious lives."

The same night it rained on both sides. For the polytheists, it obstructed further progress, whereas it was a blessing for the Muslims. It cleaned them and removed from them the stain of Satan. Allâh sent rain to strengthen their hearts and to plant their feet firmly therewith. They marched a little forward and encamped near the farther bank of the valley. 

Rasulullah stopped at the nearest spring of Badr. Al-Hubab bin Mundhir RA asked him, "Has Allâh inspired you to choose this very spot or is it stratagem of war and the product of consultation?" 

Rasulullah replied:
"It is a war stratagem  and consultation." 

Al-Hubab RA said: 
"This place is no good; let us go and encamp on the nearest water well and make a basin or reservoir full of water, then destroy all the other wells so that they will be deprived of the water." 

Rasulullah approved of his plan and agreed to carry it out, which they actually did at midnight.

Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh RA suggested that a trellis built for Rasulullah to function as headquarters for the Muslim army and a place providing reasonable protection for the leader. Sa‘d RA began to justify his proposal and said that if they had been victorious, then everything would be satisfactory. In case of defeat, Rasulullah would not be harmed and he could go back to Madinah where there were more people who loved him and who would have come for help if they had known that he was in that difficult situation, so that he would resume his job, hold counsel with them and they would strive in the cause of Allâh with him again and again.

The Battlefield of Badr
A squad of guards was also chosen from amongst the Ansar under the leadership of the same man, Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh RA, in order to defend Rasulullah in his headquarters.

Rasulullah spent the whole night preceding the day of the battle in prayer and supplication. The Muslim army, wearied with their long march, enjoyed good and refreshing sleep, a mark of the Divine favor and of the state of their undisturbed minds.

"(Remember) when He covered you with a slumber as a security from Him, and He caused rain to descend on you from the sky, to clean you thereby and to remove from you the Rijz (whispering, evil-suggestions, etc.) of Satan, and to strengthen your hearts, and make your feet firm thereby." 
[Al-Qur'an 8:11]

That was Friday night, Ramadan 17th. The year 2 A.H.
In the morning, Rasulullah called his men to offer the prayers and then urged them to fight in the way of Allâh. As the sun raised over the desert, Rasulullah drew up his little army and pointing with an arrow which he held in his hand, arranged the ranks.

Quraish, on the other hand, positioned their forces in Al-‘Udwat Al-Quswa opposite the Muslim lines. A few of them approached, in a provocative deed, to draw water from the wells of Badr, but were all shot dead except one, Hakeem bin Hizām, who later became a devoted Muslim. ‘Umair bin Wahab Al-Jumahi, in an attempt to reconnoiter the power of the Muslims, made a scouting errand and submitted a report saying that the Muslim army numbered as many as 300 men keen on fighting to the last man. On another reconnaissance, he came to the conclusion that neither reinforcements were coming nor ambushes laid.

He understood that they were too brave to surrender and too intent on carrying out their military duties to withdraw without killing the largest number possible of the polytheists. This report stated kindred relations binding the two belligerent parties together slackened the desire to fight among some of the Quraishites. To counteract this reason-based opposition advocated by a rival of his, ‘Utbah bin Rabi’ah and others, Abu Jahl started an anti-campaign seeking vengeance on Rasulullah ’s followers for the Quraishites killed at Nakhlah. In this way, he managed to thwart the opposite orientation and manipulated the people to see his evil views only.
When the two parties approached closer and were visible to each other, Rasulullah began supplicating Allâh:

 "O Allâh! The conceited and haughty Quraishites are already here defying You and belying Your Messenger. O Allâh! I am waiting for Your victory which You have promised me. I beseech You Allâh to defeat them (the enemies)." He also gave strict orders that his men would not start fighting until he gave them his final word. He recommended that they use their arrows sparingly [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/568] and never resort to sword unless the enemies came too close. 
[Abu Da'ud 2/13]

Abu Jahl also prayed for victory, saying: "Our Lord, whichever of the two parties was less kind to his relatives, and brought us what we do not know, then destroy him tomorrow."

They were confident that their superior numbers, equipment's and experience would be decisive. The Noble Qur’an, with a play on the word, told them that the decision had come, and the victory — but not in the sense they had hoped for:

"(O disbelievers) if you ask for a judgements, now has the judgement come unto you and if you cease (to do wrong), it will be better for you, and if you return (to the attack), so shall we return, and your forces will be of no avail to you, however numerous it be, and verily, Allâh is with the believers." 
[Al-Qur'an 8:19]

The first disbeliever to trigger the fire of the battle and be its first victim was Al-Aswad bin ‘Abdul Asad Al-Makhzumi, a fierce bad-tempered idolater. He stepped out swearing he would drink from the water basin of the Muslims, otherwise, destroy it or die for it. He engaged with Hamzah bin ‘Abdul Muttalib RA, who struck his leg with his sword and dealt him another blow that finished him off inside the basin.

The battle had actually started. Protected by armor and shields, ‘Utbah bin Rabi’ah stepped forth between his brother Shaibah and his son Al-Waleed bin ‘Utbah from the lines of Quraish and hurled maledictions at the Muslims. Three young men of Ansar came out against them: ‘Awf and Mu‘wwadh — the sons of Harith, and ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha. But the Makkans yelled that they had nothing to do with them. They wanted the heads of their cousins. Upon this Rasulullah asked ‘Ubaidah bin Al-Harith RA, Hamzah Ibn Abi Talib RA — his uncle, and his cousin ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib RA to go forward for the combat. The three duels were rapid. Hamzah killed Shaibah, while ‘Ali killed Al-Waleed.
 [Mishkat 2/343]

 ‘Ubaidah bin Al Harith RA was seriously wounded but, before he fell, Hamzah RA fell upon ‘Utbah and with a sweep of his sword, cut off his head. ‘Ali and Hamzah carried ‘Ubaidah back with his leg cut off. He died four or five days later of a disease in the bile duct.

‘Ali RA was possessed of a deep conviction that Allah’s Words were revealed:
"These two opponents (believers and disbelievers) dispute with each other about their Lord." 
[Al-Qur'an 22:19]

These verses were revealed in connection with men of Faith who confess their Lord and seek to carry out His Will (i.e Rasulullah ’s followers at Badr Battle), and men who deny their Lord and defy Him (the people of Quraish).

Grave Yard of Badr
The duel was followed by a few more duels but the Makkans suffered terrible defeats in all the combats and lost some of their most precious lives. They were too much exasperated and enraged and fell upon the Muslims to exterminate them once and for all. The Muslims, however, after supplicating their Lord, calling upon Him for assistance, were made to hold to their position and conduct a defensive war plan that was successful enough to inflict heavy losses on the attackers. Rasulullah used to pray to Allah SWT ceaselessly persistently day and night to come to their succor. When the fierce engagement grew too hot Rasulullah again began to supplicate Allah SWT saying:

"O Allâh! Should this group (of Muslims) be defeated today, You will no longer be worship."

Rasulullah continued to call out to Allah, stretching forth his hands and facing Al-Kiblah, until his cloak fell off his shoulders. Then Abu Bakr RA came, picked up the cloak, and put it back on his shoulders and said: "O Rasul of Allâh, you have cried out enough to Allah. Allah SWT will surely fulfill what He has promised you."

Immediate was the response from Allâh, Who sent down angels from the heavens for the help and assistance of Rasulullah and his companions. The Noble Qur’an observes:

"Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved." 
[Al-Qur'an 8:12]

Allâh, the All-Mighty, also inspired another message to His Messenger, saying:

"I will help you with a thousand of the angels each behind the other (following one another) in succession." 
[Al-Qur'an 8:9]

Rasulullah in his trellis, dozed off a little and then raised his head joyfully crying:

"O Abu Bakr, glad tidings are there for you: Allâh’s victory has approached, by Allâh, I can see Gabriel on his mare in the thick of a sandstorm."

Rasulullah then jumped out crying:

"Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs." 
[Al-Qur'an 54:45]

At the instance of Arch Angel Gabriel, Rasulullah took a handful of gravel, cast it at the enemy and said: "Confusion seizes their faces!" As he flung the dust, a violent sandstorm blew like furnace blast into the eyes of the enemies. With respect to this, Allâh says:

"And you (i.e. Rasulullah threw not when you did throw but Allâh threw." 
[Al-Qur'an 8:17]

Only then did Rasulullah give clear orders to launch a counter-attack. Rasulullah was commanding the army, inspiring confidence among his men and exhorting them to fight manfully for the sake of their Lord, reciting the Words of Allâh:

"And be quick for forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth." 
[Al-Qur'an 3:133]

The spirit Rasulullah infused into his men was clearly witnessed by the valor of ‘Umair RA, a lad of sixteen, who flung away some dates he was eating crying out: "These (the dates) are holding me back from Paradise." So saying he plunged into the thick of the battle and died fighting bravely. Unique deeds of valor, deep devotion and full obedience to Rasulullah were exhibited in the process of the battle. The army of the faithful’s was borne forward by the power of enthusiasm which the half-hearted warriors of Makkah miserably lacked. A large number of the polytheists were killed and the others began to waver. No wonder! The standard-bearers of Truth were given immediate help, and the angels were sent to their assistance by Allah to help them defeat the forces of evil.

The records of Hadith speak eloquently of the fact that the angels did appear on that day and fought on the side of the Muslims. Ibn ‘Abbas said: "While on that day a Muslim was chasing a disbeliever and he heard the swashing of a whip and the voice of the rider saying: ‘Go ahead Haizum’. He glanced at the polytheist who had (now) fallen down on his back. The Ansar came to Rasulullah and related that event to him.

Rasulullah replied
“You have told the truth. This was the help from the third heaven." 
[Sahih Muslim 2/93]

One of the Ansar captured ‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib, who said: "O Rasulullah! by Allâh this man did not capture me. I was captured by a man who was bald and had the most handsome face, and who was riding a piebald horse, I cannot see him here among the people." 

The Ansar interrupted: "I captured him, O Messenger of Allâh." Rasulullah replied:
"Be quiet, Allâh the All-Mighty strengthened you with the help of a noble angel."

Iblis, the arch Satan, in the guise of Suraqa bin Malik bin Ju‘sham Al-Mudlaji, on seeing angels working in favor of the Muslims, and Quraish rapidly losing ground on the battlefield, made a quick retreat despite the polytheists’ pleas to stay on. He ran off and plunged into the sea.

The ranks of Quraish began to give way and their numbers added nothing but confusion. The Muslims followed eagerly their retreating steps, killings or taking captive all that fell within their reach. Retreat soon turned into shame defeat and they fled in haste, casting away their armor, abandoned the beasts of burden and their tent equipage.

The great tyrant Abu Jahl, however, on seeing the adverse course of the battle, tried to stop the tidal wave of the Islamic victory by insinuating the polytheists and encouraging them by all means available and adjuring them by Al-Lat and ‘Uzza and all symbols of paganism to stand firm in place and retaliate against the Muslims, but to no avail. Their morale had already been drastically reduced to zero, and their lines break down.

He then began to realize the reality of his arrogance and haughtiness. None remained around him except a gang of doomed polytheists whose resistance was also quelled by an Islamic irresistible storm of true devotion-based valor and Islamic pursuit of martyrdom. Abu Jahl was deserted and left by himself on his horse waiting for death at the hand of two courageous lads of the Ansar.

‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf related the following interesting story in this regard: I was in the thick of the battle when two youths, still seemingly inexperienced in the art of fighting, one on the right and the second on the left. One of them spoke in a secret voice asking me to show him Abu Jahl. I asked about his intention, to which he replied, that he had a strong desire to engage with him in a combat until either of them was killed. 

It was something incredible to me. I turned left and the other said something to the same effect and showed a similar desire. I acceded to their earnest pleas and pointed directly at their target. They both rushed swiftly towards the spot, and without a moment’s hesitation struck him simultaneously with their swords and finished him off.

They went back to Rasulullah each claiming that he had killed Abu Jahl to the exclusion of the other. Rasulullah asked if they had wiped the blood off their swords and they answered that they had not. Rasulullah then examined both swords and assured them that they both had killed him. When the battle concluded, Abu Jahl’s spoils were given to Mu‘adh bin ‘Amr bin Al-Jamuh RA, because the other Mu’wwadh bin Al-‘Afrâ’ RA was later killed in the course of the same battle.
[Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/444,2/568; Mishkat 2/352]

At the termination of the battle, Rasulullah wanted to look for this archenemy of Islam, Abu Jahl. ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud found him on the verge of death breathing his last. Abdullah bin Mas’ud stepped on his neck addressing him: "Have you seen how Allâh has disgraced you?" The enemy of Islam still defiantly answered: "I am not disgraced. I am no more than a man killed by his own people on the battlefield." And then inquired” "Who has won the battle?" Ibn Mas’ud replied "Allâh and His Messenger." Abu Jahl then said with a heart full of grudge "You have followed difficult ways, you shepherd!" Ibn Mas’ud used to be a shepherd working for the Makkan aristocrats.

Ibn Ma’sud then cut off his head and took it to Rasulullah who, on seeing it, began to entertain Allah’s praise:

"Allâh is Great, praise is to Allâh, Who has fulfilled His Promise, assisted His servant and defeated the confederates alone."

Rasulullah then set out to have a look at the corpse. There Rasulullah said:

"This is the Pharaoh of this nation."