The Archers' Fatal Mistake

While the small army of Islam were recording the second absolute and clear victory over the Makkans ó which was no less in splendour and glory than the first one at Badr ó the majority of the archers on the mountainside committed a fatal mistake that turned the whole situation upside down, and constituted a source of heavy losses amongst the Muslims. It has almost brought about the murder of the Prophet [pbuh], and left a very bad impression on the fame and dignity they deservedly earned at Badr Battle.

We have already spoken about the positive orders given to the archers to hold on to their position whatever the course of the main engagement. In spite of those strict orders, and their leaderís ó ĎAbdullah bin Jubair ó warning, forty archers deserted their posts, enticed by the too soon roar of victory as well as worldly avarice for the spoils of war. [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/426] The others, however, nine in number and ĎAbdullah, their leader, decided to abide by the Prophet [pbuh]ís order and stay where they were until they were given leave or killed to the last. Consequently the cleft was left inadequately defended .

The shrewd Khalid bin Al-Waleed seized this golden opportunity to turn swiftly round to the rear of the Muslim army and encompass them. Exterminating Ibn Jubair and his group, they fell promptly upon the rear of the Muslims and his horsemen uttered a shout that signalled the new military developments. The polytheists returned once again to counterattack the Muslims. An idolist woman ó called ĎUmra bint ĎAlqama Al-Harithiyah ó rushed to the lying-on-earth standard, picked it up and hoisted it. The idolaters gathered together around the standard and called out unto one another till they encircled the Muslims and stoodfast to fight again.

The Muslims consequently got entrapped between two millstones.

The Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] was then among a small group of fighters ó nine in number at the rear of the army [Sahih Muslim 2/107], watching the engagement and braving the Muslim fighters. Khalid and his men took him by utter surprise, and obliged him to follow either of two options:

  1. To flee for his life and abandon his army to its doomed end, or
  2. To take action at the risk of his life, rally the ranks of the Muslims again and work their way through the hills of Uhud towards the encompassed army.

The genius of the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh], his peerless and matchless courage made him opt for the second course. He raised his voice calling out unto his Companions: "Slaves of All‚h." He did that though he knew that his loud voice would be heard by the idolaters before it was heard by the Muslims. He called out unto them risking his life in this delicate situation.

The idolaters, indeed, recognized him and reached his position even before the other Muslims could do so.

The encompassment of the Muslims revealed three categories of people: The first group were those who were only interested in themselves and they went so mad that they fled. They left the battlefield and did not know what happened to the others. Some of this group fled as far as Madinah. Some others went up the mountain.

The second Muslim group were those who returned to the battle, but mixed with the idolaters in such a way that they could not recognize one another. Consequently some of them were killed by mistake. On the authority of Al-Bukhari, he states that ĎAishah [R] said: "When it was Uhud Battle, the idolaters were utterly defeated. Satan then called out: ĎO slaves of All‚h. Beware the rear (i.e. the enemy is approaching from behind)í. So those who were at the front turned back and fought the ones who were behind."

Then Hudhaifah caught sight of his father ĎAl-Yamaní about to be killed by other Muslims. So he said: "O servants of All‚h! Beware! This is my father. This is my father." ĎAishah [R] said: "But they did not part with him till he was killed." Hudhaifah then said: "May All‚h forgive you." And ĎUrwa said: "By All‚h, from that time on Hudhaifah has always been blessed and wealthy till he died." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/539, 2/581; Fath Al-Bari 7/351, 362, 363] That was because he forgave them and refused to take any blood-money for his fatherís murder but recommended that it be spent in charity.

This Muslim group suffered from great bewilderment, and disorder prevailed among them. A lot of them got lost and did not know where to go. At this awkward time they heard someone calling: "Muhammad is killed." This news made them even more bewildered and almost out of sense. Their morale broke down, or almost did in a great number of individuals. Some of them stopped fighting, slackened, and cast down their weapons. Others thought of getting in touch with ĎAbdullah bin Ubai ó the head of the hypocrites ó and seeking his assistance to fetch them a security pledge from Abu Sufyan.

Anas bin An-Nadr passed by those people who were shuddering of fear and panic, and inquired: "What are you waiting for?" They said: "The Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] has been killed." "What do you live for after Muhammad [pbuh]? Come on and die for what the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] has died for." Then he said: "O All‚h I apologize for what these people (i.e. the Muslims) have done; and I swear disavowal of what the idolaters have perpetrated." Then he moved on till he was encountered by SaĎd bin MuĎadh who asked him: "Where to, Abu ĎUmar?" Anas replied: "Ah, how fine the scent of the Paradise is! I smell it here in Uhud." He went on and fought against the idolaters till he was killed. Nobody but his sister could recognize his dead body. It had been cut and stabbed by over eighty swords, arrows or spears. It was by the tip of his finger that she ó after the battle ó recognized him. [Za'd Al Ma'ad 2/93, 96; Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/579]

Thabit bin Ad-Dahdah called unto his people saying:

"O kinfolk of Helpers, if Muhammad [pbuh] were killed, All‚h is Everlasting and He never dies. Fight in defence of your Faith. All‚h will help you and so you will be victorious." A group of Helpers joined him and all set out and attacked a battalion of Khalidís horsemen. He kept on fighting till he and his friends were killed. [Ibn Hisham 2/81]

An Emigrant passed by a Helper who was besmeared by blood. He said: "O fellow! Have you heard of Muhammad [pbuh]ís murder?" The Helper answered: "If Muhammad [pbuh] were killed, then he must have completed the delivery of the Message. So fight in defence of your religion!" [Za'd Al Ma'ad 2/96]

With such boldness and encouragement, the Muslims soon recovered their spirits, came round to senses and desisted the idea of surrender or contacting the hypocrite ĎAbdullah bin Ubai. They took up arms and resumed the fight attempting to make way to the headquarters, particularly after the news of the Prophet [pbuh]ís death had been falsified. The glad tidings nerved them, and helped them to manage quite successfully the break of the military blockade, and concentrate their forces in an immune place to resume a relentless and fierce fight against the polytheists.

The third group of Muslims were those who cared for nothing except the Prophet [pbuh]. At the head of them were notable Companions like Abu Bakr, ĎUmar bin Al-Khattab, ĎAli bin Abi Talib and others —÷ž «ŠŠŚ ๦„, who hastened to protect the Prophet [pbuh] through unrivalled devotion.

As those groups of Muslims were receiving the blows of the idolaters and resisting instantly, the fight flared up around the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh], who had only nine people around him. We have already mentioned that when the idolaters started their encompassment there were only nine persons around the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh]; and that as soon as he called out unto the Muslims: "Come on! I am the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh]," the idolaters heard his voice and recognized him. So they turned back and attacked him with all their power before any of his Companions ran to his aid.

A violent raging struggle broke out between the nine Muslims and the idolaters during which peerless sort of love, self-sacrifice, bravery and heroism were revealed.

Muslim, on the authority of Anas bin Malik narrated that the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] along with seven Helpers and two Emigrants, was confined to a trap when the idolaters attacked him. The Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] then said: " He who pushes back those idolaters, will be housed in Paradise." or "He will be my Companion in Paradise." One of the Helpers stepped forward and fought the idolaters in defence of the Prophet [pbuh] till he was killed. Then they attacked the Messenger [pbuh] again. The same process was repeated again and again till all the seven Helpers were killed. Then the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] said to his two Quraishite Companions: "We have not done justice to our Companions." [Sahih Muslim 2/107]

The last of those seven Helpers was ĎAmara bin Yazeed bin As-Sakan, who kept on fighting till his wounds neutralized him and he fell dead. [Ibn Hisham 2/81]