Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
By the time you get to read this, it will be the anniversary of a great turning point in Islam’s history: the 17th of the holy month when the crucial battle of Badr was fought between Muslims (who came from Madina) and their deadly foes, the Qureish of Makkah.
Islam came to the world amid monumental adversities for its Prophet (PBUH) and his followers, the Muslims. The Prophet (PBUH) and his followers were tortured and humiliated on a daily basis for years. The Prophet (PBUH) was abused and slandered. Rubbish and offal were thrown at him.
In Taif, near Makkah, rowdy children were let loose on him, who taunted and chased him through the streets and threw stones at him. He bled so profusely that his shoes were filled with his blood. In return, he prayed to Allah to forgive them, because if not they, at least their future generations might embrace Islam’s straight path.
The Prophet’s (PBUH) worry was not about his humiliation, or his smarting wounds, but whether Allah was displeased with him. His prayer (loosely paraphrased) was: O, Allah! I don’t bother about anything, but only worry whether you are displeased with me. Blessed is the smile on Your Face that lightens all darkness, I don’t bother about anything else.
The Prophet (PBUH) came from the Banu Hashim, the most respectable among Makkan clans. The enemies of the Prophet (PBUH) did worry about the Hashemites’ possible revenge, although except the Prophet (PBUH) and his cousin Ali, no Hashemite had embraced Islam so far. Still, the enemies restrained themselves from harming the Prophet (PBUH) beyond a point, or murdering him.
However, such protection was not available to most Muslims as they were either slaves, or came from weaker backgrounds and obscure tribes. Bilal, the Ethiopian companion of the Prophet (PBUH), was a slave. Hence easy game for the tormentors. He was forced to recant from Islam. When he refused, he was dragged through hot sands of Arabia, laid bare on incredibly hot boulders under a scorching Arabian sun, heavy boulders placed on his body, and when he groaned under the hellish conditions, he was forced to recant.
Instead of recanting Bilal said: “Ahad, Ahad…”, the One and the Only. It was a paraphrase of “Lailah Illallah”, there is no God, but God alone. In later years, when Islam emerged victorious defeating it sworn enemies, Bilal used to remember how they used to tie him hand and feet, brandishing him with red, hot iron, demanding that he recant. But again, Bilal said, “Ahad, Ahad…”
In the days of Islam’s repeated victory and fast expansion, Bilal used to remember: “They used to brandish me with red, hot iron. My skin, fat and blood would melt, extinguishing the iron’s heat.”
Not many of us remember that our first martyr (shaheedah) was a poor woman, whom the tormentors tortured forcing her to recant. However, she never obliged. Frustrated, the Kuffar enemies tied her to the ground, spread eagled. They tortured her, demanding that she recant. She refused. That infuriated a tyrant so much that he rammed a spear into her private parts. She died the glorious death of a daughter of Islam who had the honour of being Islam’s first martyr.
As all this was happening day after day, year after year, Allah told Muslims through the Prophet (PBUH) to have sabr (patience), a quality Allah loves. This was the crucible in which Islam grew, slowly and steadily, observing sabr that conditioned them to carry the extraordinary responsibility of spreading Allah’s Word.
The Muslims were tormented so much that, with the Prophet’s (PBUH) advice and on his directive, some Muslims migrated to Ethiopia to avoid relentless persecution. The Makkan enemies reached there and asked king Negus of Ethiopia to hand the fugitives over to them. The king had already given them asylum and refused to hand them back to the tormentors.
The worst was the boycott of Muslims, segregated in a valley near Makka. The Makkans did not allow food and other goods to reach them for three years. Many perished, others barely survived. Ultimately, Allah led the Prophet (PBUH) to Madina, 320 km north of Makkah. In 622 CE the Prophet (PBUH) had asked his followers to move to Madina. Soon after that, he migrated in the company of his companion Abu Bakar, who became the first caliph (the Prophet’s deputy) after the Prophet’s (PBUH) death.
Most Muslims reached Madina, one by one, and settled there. The Prophet’s migration (in Arabic, hijrah) marks the beginning of our Hijri calendar. Even in Madina the muhajirin (migrant Muslims from Makkah) were small in number. The Muslims of Madina, called Ansar (the helpers), had an agreement with the muhajirin under the constitution of Madina to defend the city along with muhajirin against outside invaders. Thus, they were not legally obliged to go out and away from Madina with the muhajirin to fight Makkan enemies. However, they fought alongside the muhajirin on other occasions also. At that time Allah allowed Muslims to fight back the oppressors with all the might at their command.
Then came the decisive moment that changed the fortunes of Islam and altered the world history. On 17th of Ramadhan, second year of Hijrah, that is, March 13, 624 CE, came the battle of Badr in the Hejaz region of western Arabia. The Kuffar of Makkah had an army thrice as large as that of the Muslims, muhajirin and Ansar together. The top leaders of Makkah had come in their army with the hope to destroy Muslims once and forever and bring home a lot of booty.
According to some traditions, when the Prophet (PBUH) heard the names of the top Makkan leaders who had come with their army, he told Muslims, “Makkah has thrown to you the best morsels of its liver”.
According to Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) said before the battle:
Behold! Allah Promised me that he would definitely help
me. I am taking an oath by Allah’s Excellent Name. Here
will be the grave of Abu Jahl, and here will lay Utba ibn
Rabiah. The Prophet mentioned names of 14 Kuffar and
pointed out their graves before the battle.
The Muslims got a swift victory and most of the top leadership of Makka’s Kuffar was decimated with Allah’s help and as the Prophet (PBUH) had announced before the battle. Fourteen Muslims were martyred and 49 of the Kuffar were killed. Twenty two were killed by Ali alone, and 27 died at the hands of other Muslims. This was a turning point in Islam’s history. From here the victory over Makkah was just a step away. From that point onward, enemies would have to think twice before laying their hands on a Muslim.
As the words uttered by the Prophet (PBUH) before the battle clearly show, this victory was promised and delivered by Allah. All praise and thanks to Allah for giving us His Prophet (PBUH), His Book, His chosen faith Islam and the help at Badr. Ramadhan 17 is a day of thanking Allah for that great help and rededicating ourselves to Islam.