Category: Holidays » Islamic holidays
17 Ramadan, the Battle of Badr was won by the Muslims.
The Battle of Badr (Arabic: غزوة بدر), fought on Tuesday, 13 March 624 CE (17 Ramadan, 2 AH in the Islamic calendar) in the Hejaz region of western Arabia (present-day Saudi Arabia), was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad's struggle with his opponents among the Quraish in Mecca. The battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention, or by secular sources to the strategic genius of Muhammad. It is one of the few battles specifically mentioned in the Quran. Most contemporary knowledge of the battle at Badr comes from traditional Islamic accounts, both hadiths and biographies of Muhammad, recorded in written form some time after the battle.
Prior to the battle, the Muslims and the Meccans had fought several smaller skirmishes in late 623 and early 624. Badr, however, was the first large-scale engagement between the two forces. Advancing to a strong defensive position, Muhammad's well-disciplined force broke the Meccan lines, killing several important Quraishi leaders including the Muslims' chief antagonist Abu Jahl. For the early Muslims the battle was the first sign that they might eventually defeat their enemies among the Meccans. Mecca at that time was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Arabia, fielding an army three times larger than that of the Muslims. The Muslim victory also signaled to the other tribes that a new power had arisen in Arabia and strengthened Muhammad's position as leader of the often fractious community in Medina.
Muhammad was born in Mecca around 570 CE into the Quraish tribe. In 622, to escape persecution of Muslims by the Meccans, Muhammad and many of his followers migrated from Mecca to the neighboring city of Medina. This migration is called the Hijra.
In late 623 and early 624, the Muslim raiding grew increasingly brazen and commonplace. In September 623, Muhammad himself led a force of 200 in an unsuccessful raid against a large caravan. Shortly thereafter, the Meccans launched their own "raid" against Medina, although its purpose was just to steal some livestock which belonged to the Muslims. In January 624, the Muslims ambushed a Meccan caravan near Nakhlah, only forty kilometers outside of Mecca, killing one of the guards and formally inaugurating a blood feud with the Meccans. Worse, from a Meccan standpoint, the raid occurred in the month of Rajab, a truce month sacred to the Meccans in which fighting was prohibited and a clear affront to their pagan traditions.
At midnight on 13 March, the Quraish broke camp and marched into the valley of Badr. It had rained the previous day and they struggled to move their horses and camels up the hill of 'Aqanqal. After they descended from 'Aqanqal, the Meccans set up another camp inside the valley. While they rested, they sent out a scout, Umayr ibn Wahb to reconnoitre the Muslim lines. Umayr reported that Muhammad's army was small, and that there were no other Muslim reinforcements which might join the battle. However, he also predicted extremely heavy Quraishi casualties in the event of an attack (One hadith refers to him seeing "the camels of [Medina] laden with certain death"). This further demoralized the Quraish, as Arab battles were traditionally low-casualty affairs, and set off another round of bickering among the Quraishi leadership. However, according to Arab traditions Amr ibn Hishām quashed the remaining dissent by appealing to the Quraishi's sense of honor and demanding that they fulfill their blood vengeance.
The battle began with champions from both armies emerging to engage in combat. Three of the Ansar emerged from the Muslim ranks, only to be shouted back by the Meccans, who were nervous about starting any unnecessary feuds and only wanted to fight the Quraishi Muslims. So Hamza approached forward and called on Ubayda and Ali to join him. The Muslims dispatched the Meccan champions in a three-on-three melee. Hamza killed his opponent Utba ibn Rabi'ah; Ali killed his opponent Walid ibn Utba; Ubayda was wounded by his opponent Shaybah ibn Rabi'ah, but eventually killed him. So this was a victorious traditional 3 on 3 combat for the Muslims.
Now both armies began showering each other with arrows. A few Muslims and an unknown number of Quraish warriors were killed. Before the battle, Muhammad had given orders for the Muslims to attack first with their ranged weapons and only afterword advance to engage the Quraish with melee weapons. Now he gave the order to charge, throwing a handful of pebbles at the Meccans in what was probably a traditional Arabian gesture while yelling "Defaced be those faces!" The Muslim army yelled "Yā manṣūr amit!" "O thou whom God hath made victorious, slay!" and rushed the Quraishi lines. The Meccans, understrength and unenthusiastic about fighting, promptly broke and ran. The battle itself only lasted a few hours and was over by the early afternoon. The Quran describes the force of the Muslim attack in many verses, which refer to thousands of angels descending from Heaven at Badr to terrify the Quraish. Muslim sources take this account literally, and there are several hadith where Muhammad discusses the Angel Jibreel and the role he played in the battle.
The Battle of Badr was extremely influential in the rise of two men who would determine the course of history on the Arabian peninsula for the next century. The first was Muhammad, who was transformed overnight from a Meccan outcast into a major leader. Marshall Hodgson adds that Badr forced the other Arabs to "regard the Muslims as challengers and potential inheritors to the prestige and the political role of the [Quraish]." Shortly thereafter he expelled the Banu Qaynuqa, one of the Jewish tribes at Medina that had been threatening his political position, and who had assaulted a Muslim woman which led to their expulsion for breaking the peace treaty. At the same time Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, Muhammad's chief opponent in Medina, found his own position seriously weakened. Henceforth, he would only be able to mount limited challenges to Muhammad.
The other major beneficiary of the Battle of Badr was Abu Sufyan. The death of Amr ibn Hashim, as well as many other Quraishi nobles gave Abu Sufyan the opportunity, almost by default, to become chief of the Quraish. As a result, when Muhammad marched into Mecca six years later, it was Abu Sufyan who helped negotiate its peaceful surrender. Abu Sufyan subsequently became a high-ranking official in the Muslim Empire, and his son Muawiya would later go on to found the Umayyad Caliphate.
In later days, the battle of Badr became so significant that Ibn Ishaq included a complete name-by-name roster of the Muslim army in his biography of Muhammad. In many hadiths, veterans who fought at Badr are identified as such as a formality, and they may have even received a stipend in later years. The death of the last of the Badr veterans occurred during the First Islamic civil war.
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