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Battle of Badr - Part I

[Martin Lings - Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Deen]

The Prophet now drew up his army, and he passed in front of each man to give them
good heart and to straighten the ranks, bearing an arrow in his hand.

"Stand in line, O Sawad", he said to one of the Helpers who was too far forward, and
he gave him a slight prick in the belly with his arrow. "O Messenger of God, thou
hast hurt me," said Sawad, "and God hath sent thee with truth and justice, so give
me my requital." "Take it," said the Prophet, laying bare his own belly and handing
him the arrow whereupon Sawad stooped and imprinted a kiss where it was his due
to place a point of the shaft.

"What made thee do this?" said the Prophet. And he answered: "O Messenger of
God, we are now faced with what thou seest; and I desire that at my last moment
with thee-if so it be- my skin should touch thy skin;" and the Prophet prayed for him
and blessed him.

Quraysh had now begun to advance. Seen across the undulating dunes, the Meccan
army appeared to be much smaller than it was. But the Prophet was fully aware of
their true numbers and of the great disparity between the two hosts, and he now
returned to the shelter with Abu Bakr and prayed for the help which God had
promised him.

A light slumber came upon him, and when he woke he said: "Be of good cheer, Abu
Bakr; the help of God hath come to thee. Here is Gabriel and in his hand is the rein
of a horse which he is leading, and he is armed for war."

In the history of the Arabs many a battle had been averted at the last minute, even
when the two forces were drawn up face to face. But the Prophet was now certain
that the battle would take place, and that this formidable array was the one of the
two parties that he had been promised.

The vultures also knew that carnage was imminent and they were already in wait to
feed on the carcasses of the slain, some wheeling overhead and others perched on
the rocky slopes in the rear of either army. It was, moreover, clear from the
movements of Quraysh that they were preparing to attack. They were already near
and now halted within easy reach of the cistern which the Muslims had made. It
seemed likely that their first move would be to take possession of it.

Aswad of Makhzum strode ahead of the others, clearly intending to drink. Hamzah
went out to meet him and struck him a blow which severed one of his legs below the
knee, and a second blow which killed him.

Then Utbah, still smarting from the taunts of Abu Jahl, stepped from the ranks and
gave the challenge for single combat; and for the further honour of the family of his
brother Shaybah and his son Walid stepped forward on either side of him.
The challenge was immediately accepted by the Awf of the Najjar clan of Khazraj,
who had been one of the first six of the Helpers to pledge themselves to the Prophet;
and with Awf stepped forward his brother Mu'awwidh. It was their quarter in Medina
that Qaswa had chosen as the ultimate halt of the Hijrah. The third to accept the
challenge was 'Abd Allah ibn Rawahah. Who had defied his leader Ibn Ubayy in
speaking words of welcome and comfort to the Prophet.

"Who are ye?" said the challengers. When the men answered, 'Utbah said "Ye are
noble and our peers, yet we naught to do with you. Our challenge is against none
but men of our own tribe." Then the herald of Quraysh shouted: "O Muhammad,
send forth against us our peers from our own tribe." The Prophet had not intended
anything else, but the eagerness of the Helpers had forestalled him. Now he turned
to his own family. Since it was above all for them to initiate the battle. The
challengers were two men of mature age and one youth.

"Arise, O 'Ubaydah," he said. "Arise, O Hamzah. Arise, O Ali." 'Ubaydah was the
oldest and most experienced man in the army, a grandson of Muttalib, and he faced
Utbah while Hamzah faced Shaybah and Ali faced Walid.

The combats were not long: Shaybah and Walid were soon lying dead on the ground,
while Hamzah and Ali were unhurt: but at the moment Ubaydah struck Utbah to the
ground he received from him a sweep of the sword that severed one of his legs. It
was a triple contest, three against three, so Hamzah and Ali turned their swords on
'Utbah, and Hamzah gave him the death blow. Then they carried their wounded
cousin back to their camp. He had lost a mortal quantity of blood, and the marrow
was oozing from the stump of his leg. He had only one thought. "Am I not a martyr,
O Messenger of God?" he said as the Prophet approached him. " Indeed thou are" he
answered.

The tense stillness between the two hosts was now broken by the sound of an arrow
from Quraysh, and a freedman of Umar feel to the ground, fatally wounded.

A second arrow pierced the throat of Harithah, a youth of Khazraj, as he was


drinking at the cistern. The Prophet now exhorted his men saying: "By Him in whose
hand is the soul of Muhammad, no man will be slain this day, fighting against them
in steadfast hope of his reward, advancing not retreating, but God shall straightaway
enter him into Paradise."

His words were passed on by those who heard them to those who were out of
earshot. Umayr of the Salimah clan of Khazraj had a handful of dates which he was
eating. " Wonder of wonders!" he exclaimed. "Is there naught between me and my
entering Paradise, but that these men should slay me?", and he flung away the dates
and put his hand to his sword and, in eager readiness for the word of command.