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The Battle of Ohod

Location :

The valley in front of mountain of Ohod located about 5 miles from Madina
When the battle was fought :
8th or Saturday 15th of Shawwal 3 AH, February 625 AD.
Muslim Army:
Between 700 and 1000 men, 100 had protective gears and only 2 horsemen
Mushrikeen Army:
3000 men of which 700 had protective gears, included 200 horsemen
Muslim martyrs:
70 - as per most traditions


Background and Reason

The Qureshites came out from the Battle of Badr with an astonishing result which they did not expect. They were confident of their capability to annihilate the Muslims easily. For the Qureshites were more numerous and with a bigger reserve and more logistics. Yet, they suddenly found themselves losing seventy of their warriors and leaders, along with seventy captives, in a one-day battle. And above all, the resounding defeat which they received was at the hand of a group whom they used to belittle.

In the forefront was Abu Sufiyam. He had taken oath not to bathe until he has fought the muslims and avenged the defeat at Badr. More so, he felt accused of the loss at the battle of Badr. His son Hantala had been killed in the battle of Badr. In addition, his wife Hinda had lost her father Utba, uncle Sheeba and brother Waleed.

The Qureshites mobilized arount three thousand fighters this battle of revenge. This army was financed and its logistics were secured through the gross income of the commercial caravan which was allotted to the battle of avenge. The preparations went on for a full year and thus, the community of Quraish, one year after the Battle of Badr, marched towards Medina to annihilate the Muslims, their religion, and their Prophet. The Meccan army arrived at the area of Ohod which is five miles away from Medina. There, the expected battle took place.

The Islamic forces positioned themselves opposite the invading and aggressive forces of Quraysh (Khalid bin Walid on right, Ikrimah bin Abu Jahl on left, Abu Sufyan in middle). The Muslim army selected as their camping place a point which had a natural barrier and protection at the back of it in the shape of Mt. Uhud. There was, however a particular gap in the middle of the mountain and it was probable that the enemy forces might turn round the mountain and appear at the back of the Muslim army through that gap and might attack them from behind.

The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) went on deploying his forces, placing them in strategic positions. He placed fifty marksmen at the slope of the Mount of Ohod, under the command of Abdullah Jabir directing them to protect the back of the Muslims against the pagan cavalry. He commanded them not to leave their position whether the Muslims defeated the pagans or the pagans defeated the Muslims.

The Elements of the Islamic Defense

In this second battle of destiny for the Muslims, the Islamic defense consisted of the same three important elements which played their roles at the battle of Badr:

1. The ideal leadership of the Messenger(pbuh&hf) and his firmness.

2. The members of the house of the Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) and their heroism.

3. An Islamic army consisting of one thousand companions, the hearts of many of them were filled with faith and readiness for martyrdom.

According to Tareekh-e-Tabri (Volume 3 Page 12), the Muslim stratup force was 1000 men but at the time when the battle was about to start, the famous Munafiq Abdullah bin Ubai, withdrew with his 300 supporters and returned back to Madina, thus leaving about 700 Muslims to fight against the pagan army.

The battle begins

The army of the pagans contained a camp of their women which was headed by Hinda, the wife of Abu Sufyan and the mother of Moaviya. She, together with some 15 women were encouraging their warrior with songs and verses which were sentimentally motivating their men. In addition, Abu Sufyan had brought their two Gods Laat and Uzza with him and was hodling them up to arouse the fighting spirit in his army. (Tareekh-e-Tabir, Volume 3, Page 14)

The start of the Battle of Ohod was on the same pattern as that of the Battle or Badr. Talhah Ibn Abu Talhah ( from Banu Abdul-Dar clan ), the banner-bearer of the pagans, challenged the Muslims, saying: "Are there any duelers?". The respondent to his call was the same respondent of the Battle of Badr. Imam Ali(a.s.), the banner-bearer of the Muhajireen, came to him and when they faced each other between the two hosts, Imam Ali(a.s.) swiftly dealt him a blow with his sword through which his head was split. The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) was pleased. He exclaimed: AIlah-o-Akbar (God Is Great), and so did the Muslims, for the biggest hero of the pagan army had been killed.

Abu Saad Ibn Abu Talhah (brother of Talhah) carried the banner and challenged the Muslims, Imam Ali(a.s.) came to him and Abu Saad was not luckier than his brother Talhah. The men of Abdul-Dar continued replacing the bearers of their banner with their men, and the Muslims continued annihilating them. Imam Ali(a.s.) destroyed Artat Ibn Sharhabeel, Shureih Ibn Qaridh and their servant, Sawab.

Historians reported that Al-Hamzah(r.a.) killed Othman Ibn Abu Talhah. Assim Ibn Thabit(a.r.) shot by his arrows Musafi, and Al-Harith(r.a.), two sons of Talhah, Al-Zubeir killed their brother Kilab, and Talhah Ibn Obeidullah(r.a.) killed their other brother Al-Jallas.

Imam Ali(a.s.) and the Banner Bearers

However, Ibn Al-Atheer reported that Imam Ali(a.s.), alone, destroyed all the standard bearers at the Battle of Ohod and said that Abu Rafi reported that. and so did Al-Tabari. (Ibn Al Atheer, Al Kamil, vol 3 p 107)

The death of the banner-bearers heightened the morale of the Muslims and shook the hearts of the pagans. Following the death of the banner bearers, the Muslims undertook a general offensive led by Imam Ali(a.s.), Al-Hamzah(r.a.), Abu Dujanh(r.a.), and others. The Islamic offensive terrified the pagan army, but the Muslims lost during this operation a giant hero Al-Hamzah(r.a.), Lion of God, and uncle of the Messenger of God. Wahshi, an Abbysinian, transfixed him with his spear while he was fighting. However, the pagans were forced to flee and leave their camps. The Muslims entered the pagan camps and went on collecting what they found of equipment and material without meeting any resistance from the pagans.

The pagan army had several banner-bearers among their ranks so that if one was killed the next person held the banner to keep it from falling. Imam Ali(a.s.) fought each and evey banner-bearer apart from a couple and killed all of them. His offensive was so fierce that after several of them were killed, the rest feared holding the banner.

Defeat After Victory

This scene tempted the fifty marksmen whom the Prophet(pbuh&hf) placed at the slope of the Mount of Ohod to protect the back of the Muslims against the pagan cavalry. The majority of these marksmen left their place and joined the collectors of the spoils. They did not heed the word of their leader Abdullah Ibn Jubeir(r.a.), who reminded them of the instructions of the Prophet(pbuh&hf) which made it mandatory for them not to leave their place. Not more than ten of them heeded his words. Noticing the small number of the marksmen, Khalid Ibn Al-Waleed and his horsemen killed them then started a general offensive.

The fleeing pagans beheld their horsemen fighting and attacking. They came back to the battle while the Muslims were preoccupied collecting the booty.

The Muslims were astonished and confused. They started to fight but they did not know whom they were fighting Many Muslims were killed by the Muslims themselves, then they fled turning their backs and refusing to look behind, while the Prophet(pbuh&hf) was calling them to come back to the battle. The Holy Ouran informs us of the situation of the Muslims in this terrifying hour:

"God certainly made good His promise unto you when you routed them by His leave, until the moment when your courage failed you and ye disobeyed after He had showed that for which ye long. Among you are some that hanker after this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then did He divert you from your foes in order to test you. But He forgave you. For God is full of grace to those who believe. Behold ye were climbing up (the high ground) without casting a side glance at anyone, and the Apostle was calling you back. There did God give you one distress after another by way of requital, to teach you not to grieve for what ye miss, or for (the ill) that had befallen you. For God is well aware of all that ye do." [Quran 3:151-52]

The rumour of the Prophet(pbuh&hf) being killed

A brave warrior of Quraysh named Ibn-e-Qamiya Laythi attacked Mus'ab bin Umayr(r.a.), who was the banner-bearer of the Ansaar, and after exchange of a number of blows between them Mus'ab was martyred. As the Muslim warriors had hidden their faces Laythi thought that the person killed was the Prophet of Islam. He, therefore, shouted and informed the chiefs of the army that Muhammad had been killed.

This rumor spread from man to man in the army of Quraysh. Their chiefs were so happy that their voices were ringing in the battlefield and all of them were saying: "O people! Muhammad has been killed! O people! Muhammad has been killed!". Publicity of this false news encouraged the enemy and the army of Quraysh came into motion.

This news weakened the morale of the warriors of Islam much more than it gave strength to the morale of the army of the enemy, so much so that a considerable majority of Muslims abandoned fighting and took refuge in the mountains and none of them, except a few, who could be counted on fingers, remained in the field.

Who remained with the Prophet(pbuh&hf)?

The companions fled away, concerned only with their own safety. History recorded seven exceptional Meccans (Imam Ali(a.s.), Abu Bakr, Abdul-Rahman Ibn Ouf, Saad Ibn Abu Waqass, Talhah Ibn Obeidah, Al-Zubeir Ibn Al-Awam, Abu Obeidah Ibn Al-Jarrah); And Seven exceptional Medinites (Al-Hubab Ibn Al-Munthir, Abu Dujanah, Sahl Ibn Huneif, Assim Ibn Thabit, Saad Ibn Muath, Asad Ibn Hudheir or Saad lbn Abadah and Mohammad Ibn Muslimah). These men, according to some historians, remained with the Prophet(pbuh&hf) when the other companions deserted him. (Al Waqidi, Al Maghazi (Conveyed by Ibn Abu Al Hadeed in his Commentary on Nahjul Balagha, Volume 3, Page 388)

From what we read in Al-Mustadrak by Al-Hakim, we understand that Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib(a.s.) was the only defender who stayed with the Prophet for the entire duration of the battle. The other companions who were mentioned to be among those who remained with the Prophet(pbuh&hf) were actually the first ones to come back to the Messenger of God after they left him. Al-Hakim recorded that Ibn Abbas said:

"Ali has four distinctions no one shares with him: He was the first male who prayed with the Messenger of God. He was the bearer of his banner in every battle and he was the one who stayed with him at the Battle on the day of Al- Mihras (the Battle of Ohod, where there is gathered water called Al-Mihras ), and he is the one who washed his blessed body and laid him in his tomb." (Al Hakim, al Mustadrak, Volume 3 Page 111)

It is not possible to deny that some companions fled the field and the fact that they were companions of the Prophet(pbuh&hf) or that later they acquired status and honour amongst the Muslims should not prevent us from accepting this bitter reality. Most notable names among them were Hazrat Umar bin Khattab, Talha bin Abdullah (Tareekh-e-Tabri, Volume 3, Page 20 and Tafseer Dur-e-Manshoor, Tafseer-e-Kabeer), Hazrat Usman bin Affan (Tareekh-e-Tabri, Volume 3, Page 21), and Hazrat Abu Bakr (Tareekh-e-Ahmadi Page 42 and Al-Hakim Al-Mustadrak, Volume 3, Page 78).

Ibn Hisham, the famous historian, writes thus: "Anas bin Nazr, the uncle of Anas bin Malik says: "When the army of Islam came under pressure and the news of the death of the Prophet was afloat, most of the Muslims thought of their own lives and every person took refuge in one corner or the other". He adds: "I saw a group of Muhajirs and Ansar, including Umar bin Khattab and Talhah bin Ubaydullah Taymi, who were sitting in a corner and were anxious for themselves. I said to them with a tone of protest: "Why are you sitting here?" They replied, "The Prophet has been killed and it is, therefore, no use fighting". I said to them: "If the Prophet has been killed it is no use living. Get up and meet martyrdom in the same path in which he has been killed".

According to many historians, Anas said: "If Muhammad has been killed his Lord is alive". And then he added: "I saw that my words had no effect on them. I put my hand to my arms and began to fight with determination". Ibn Hisham says that Anas sustained seventy wounds in this battle and none could identify his dead body except his sister.

A group of Muslims were so much depressed that in order to ensure their safety they planned to approach Abdullah Ubayy so that he might obtain security for them from Abu Sufyan (Tareekh-e-Tabri, Volume 3, Page 19)

Tabri states that "Usman bin Affan and two of the Ansaara - Uqba bin Usman and Saad bin Usman fled away and went to Jal'ab which is a hill located near madina. They stayed there three days and then returned to the Prophet(pbuh&hf)". (Tareekh-e-Tabri, Volume 3, Page 21).

Al-Hakim reported that Abu Bakr said: When people left the Messenger of God on the day of Uhud I was the first one to come back to the Messenger of God ... then he mentioned in the hadith that Abu Obeidah lbn Al-Jarrah followed him." (Al Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, Volume 3, Page 78 )

The Prophet (pbuh&hf) Participated

The Messenger stayed at the battlefield with full determination and firmness after the pagans came up to him. He himself fought vigorously. Saad Ibn Abu Waqaas reported that he witnessed a man whose face was covered, and he did not know who he was. The pagans came towards him and Saad thought that they were going to overpower him. But that man took a handful of gravel and threw it at their faces and they retreated . . . Finally Saad discovered that that man was the Prophet(pbuh&hf). He used his bow and expended all his arrows until his bow could not be used any longer. (Ibn Husham, Biography of the Prophet, Volume 2, Page 78)

At-Tabri states that the Prophet(pbuh&hf) used spear and bow and arrow as well in this battle (Tareekh-e-Tabri Volume 3, Page 18). Infact, the Prophet(pbuh&hf) while defending himself, killed an attacker Abi bin Khalaf Jam'ee using a spear which was borrowed by one of the faithfulls Haris bin Samaa (Tareekh-e-Tabri, Volume 3, Page 19). The Prophet(pbuh&hf) received several injuries on head and face as well when several people attacked him at once. (Tabri, Volume 3, Page 17).

Imam Ali's (a.s.) endeavor

Al-Tabari reported that Abu Rafi said: The Messenger of Allah witnessed a group of pagans coming to him. He said to Imam Ali(a.s.): Charge them. Imam Ali(a.s.) charged them and forced them to retreat and killed Amr Ibn Abdullah Al-Jamhi. The Prophet(pbuh&hf) beheld another group coming and told Imam Ali(a.s.) to charge them and he did. He scattered them and killed Sheibah Ibn Malik, one of the children of Amir Ibn Luay. Amazed by Imam Ali's(a.s.) sacrifice Gabriel said:

Messenger of God, what a redeemer Ali is!
The Prophet replied:
He is from me, and I am from him.
Gabriel said:
And I am from both of you.
They heard at that time a voice saying:
There is no youth (full of manhood) but Ali, and no sword comparable to Zulfiqar (Ali's sword).

Ref: Sayed Muhsin, Al Ameen, in his Aayan Al Shiah, vol 2 p 195
Al Fairoozbadi, Fadail al Khamsah, vol 2 p 317 (from Tabari)
Ibn Al Atheer, In his Biography, vol 2 p 107

A regiment arrived from Kinanah in which four of the children of Sufyan Ibn Oweif were present. Khalid, Abu AI-Shaatha, Abu Al-Hamra, and Ghurab. The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf) said to Imam Ali(a.s.): "Take care of this regiment." Imam Ali(a.s.) charged the regiment, and it was about fifty horsemen. He fought them while he was on foot until he scattered them. They gathered again and he charged them again. This was repeated several times until he killed the four children of Sufyan and added to them six more ... (Ibn Abu Al Hadeed, in his Commentary, Volume 1, Page 372)

Ibn Husham reported that the Messenger fell into one of the pits which were excavated and covered up by Abu Amir, who expected the Muslims to fall in them. The knee of the Messenger(pbuh&hf) was cut. Imam Ali(a.s.) held the hand of the Messenger(pbuh&hf) and pulled him up and Talhah Ibn Obeidullah helped him until the Prophet(pbuh&hf) stood up. ( Ibn Husham, Biography of Prophet, Volume 2, Page 80)

Muslim in his "Sahih" (Authentic) reported that Sahl Ibn Saad said the following:

"The face of the Messenger was cut, and one of his teeth was broken, and the protective dress of his head was broken. Fatima, daughter of the Messenger, was washing the blood and Ali was pouring water he brought by his shield from Al-Mihras. Beholding that the water increased the flow of blood, she burned a mat, put some of its ashes on the wound and the blood stopped. (Sahih Muslim, Volume 12, Page 148)

Burial and Mourning of the dead

Ibn al-Wara writes that the Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) first led the Salat-il-Janaza (Prayer of the dead) of Hazrat Hamza(a.s.). After that other martyers were laid beside Hazrat Hamza(a.s.) and one by one the Prophet(pbuh&hf) led the salat-il-janaza of all of them. Finally all the martyrs were buried.

Ibn-e-Jarir writes that at the end of the battle, the Muslim army returned to Madina and Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) passed in front of the houses of Bani Abdul-Shahl and Bani Zafar where their women were crying and mourning their dead, the Prophet(pbuh&hf) became sorrow himself and tears appeared in his eays and he said: " ....but there is no one to mourn the death of Hamza". Allama Tabrisi states that some companions of the Prophet(pbuh&hf), ordered their women to go the house of Bibi Fatima(s.a.) and condole the martyrdom of Hazrat Hamza(r.a.). When the Prophet(pbuh&hf) passed in front of the house of Bibi Fatima(s.a.), he heard the voices of the women crying and mourning the death of Hazrat Hamza(r.a.). The Prophet(pbuh&hf) prayed for these women.

Ibn-e-Sa'ad writes that after this event it became a practice among ansar women that whenever anyone diend in the family, first they mourned for Hazrat Hamza(r.a.) and then for their own dead. (Tabqaat-e-ibn-e-Sa'ad, Ref. Tareekh-e-Ahmadi, Page 45,46)

The Conclusion

It would not be difficult for the reader to infer the following:

1. The Battle of Ohod was one of the battles on which the future of Islam depended.

2. The death of the banner-bearers of the pagan army at the beginning of the battle had its important effect in raising the morale of the Muslims and breaking the morale of the pagans who were four times more numerous than the Muslims. The banner-bearers in the eyes of the warriors in those days were the leaders of the army. Their death had a great effect on the morale of the army. History recorded that Abu Sufyan said to Banu Abdul Dar:

"O Banu Abdul-Dar, we recognize that you have more right than any other Meccan clan to carry the banner (because the Meccan tradition gives the clan of Abdul Dar the right to carry the banner at war). We were defeated in Badr because of the banner. Hold your banner firmly and protect it or hand it to us."
This infuriated the clan of Abdul-Dar. As they refused to surrender their right of carrying the banners Abu Sufyan said:
"Let another banner be added to it." They said: "Yes, but the additional banner will be carried also by a man from Banu Abdul-Dar, and nothing other than this will be accepted."

The Meccan pagans witnessed at the beginning of the battle their banner fallen ten times, and their hearts fell with the banner ten times. They found, to their astonishment, that they are facing a tremendous power. Imam Ali(a.s.) was the one who destroyed the banner bearers or most of them. This signalled the defeat of the Meccan army in the first round.

3. When the Muslims were defeated in the second round, no one remained with the Prophet(pbuh&hf) except Imam Ali(a.s.) and thirteen others of the companions of the Messenger(pbuh&hf). These thirteen were the first to come back to the Messenger(pbuh&hf) after their flight. It is clear that Imam Ali's(a.s.) defense in that decisive hour was much more valuable than the defense of the thirteen companions put together.

The Messenger(pbuh&hf) became the target of the pagan's attacks. Whenever a regiment aimed at the Prophet(pbuh&hf), Imam Ali(a.s.) charged the regiment and forced it to retreat.

Thus, we would not be erroneous if we say that Imam Ali(a.s.) in this decisive battle had the exclusive honor of being the main defender of the Messenger(pbuh&hf) and his Message, against the forces which no one other than Imam Ali(a.s.) could face successfully. The Battle of Badr laid the foundation of the Islamic state, but the Battle of Ohod was about to destroy the foundation, had not a small number of heroes headed by Imam Ali(a.s.) been present.

The pagans found that the Battle of Ohod ended in their favor. They defeated the army of the Prophet(pbuh&hf), and the Muslims lost seventy companions, among them the giant hero: Al-Hamzah(r.a.), uncle of the Messenger and Lion of God. But the pagan victory was not decisive. Their target was the Prophet(pbuh&hf) but he was still alive. He was the biggest danger to them, therefore, it was necessary for them to have another decisive battle in which they would realize the goal that they could not realize at the Battle of Ohod.