The Battle of Badr was the first major clash between the young Islamic state in Madinah and the Quraish, the predominant Arab tribe which had opposed Islam ever since its very first day.
As such, its importance cannot be exaggerated. A win for the Quraish might have tempted them to march on to Madinah to put an end to Islam altogether.
A victory for the Muslims, on the other hand, would establish them as a major force in Arabia on a parallel level with the Quraish. This explains the Prophet’s earnest prayers for a complete victory.
Reasons of Victory
Muslims believe that such a remarkable victory was certainly achieved with the help of God. A number of factors combined to make it possible.
Firstly, the Muslims were fighting under one command. The Prophet himself was their commander-in-chief. His sense of timing was superb. The relationship between commander and soldier was exemplary. Discipline among the Muslim forces was of the type any army commander would love to have.
All these aspects made the Muslim army highly efficient: this compensated for its numerical weakness.
While the Prophet consulted his companions before every step he took, the unbelievers lacked unity of purpose. A large number of notables were in the army, but the most distinguished among them were Utbah and Abu Jahl.
The views of these two men were widely different. Suffice it to say that one of them, Utbah, felt compelled to start the battle because the other, Abu Jahl, tried hard to make him appear cowardly.
Secondly, the Prophet marched from Madinah to Badr using a strategy similar to the one adopted today in desert warfare. He also sent out patrols to gather information.
Thirdly, the goals of the two camps were worlds apart. The Muslims wanted to ensure freedom of thought, worship and expression for everyone. The message of Islam had suffered much repression by the Quraish for a decade and a half.
Now it was time for the Quraish to be taught a lesson in respecting man’s basic rights. The Quraish’s goals were simply those outlined by Abu Jahl.
When many in the Quraish army wanted to go back home after having learnt that Abu Sufyan’s caravan was safe, Abu Jahl said:
“We will march on to Badr and stay there for three days. And we will slaughter camels for food, organize a big feast and make it open to everyone to come and eat.
We will drink much wine and will be entertained by singers and dancers. When this is known, all Arabian tribes will hold us in awe for the rest of time.”
These cannot be the goals of a serious army; this is a short-sighted objective of people driven by conceit.
Lastly, morale among the Muslims was sky-high, even among those who had their first taste of battle at Badr. Good equipment and numerical strength cannot win a battle if morale is low. This is true of all wars, both ancient and modern.
When the battle was over and the Quraish army withdrew, having suffered a crushing defeat, the Prophet ordered the burial of the dead. The 14 Muslim martyrs were buried in graves dug for them by their brethren. A disused well which had dried up was used to bury the enemy soldiers.
When all 70 of them were buried, the Prophet stood at their grave and said:
People of the well! Have you seen how God’s promises always come true? God’s promise to me has certainly been fulfilled.
Some of the Prophet’s companions wondered how he could speak to the dead. He said:
They now know that what God has promised is fulfilled.
The Prophet then sent Abdullah ibn Rawahah and Zaid ibn Harithah to convey the good news to the people of Madinah.
Usamah ibn Zaid mentions that his father arrived to give the news of victory shortly after the burial of Ruqayyah, the Prophet’s daughter who was married to Uthman ibn Affan.
She was ill when the Prophet set out from Madinah. He asked her husband, Uthman, not to join the expedition. Instead, he was to stay and look after her. Uthman later married the Prophet’s third daughter, Umm Kulthum.
Excerpted from Adil Salahi’s “Muhammad: Man and Prophet”.