This was the second year of the Hijrah (Prophet’s escape from Mecca). Muslims were commanded to turn their faces to the Kaaba, the Holy House at Mecca, instead of Bait-ul-Muqaddus, the Holy Place in Palestine. The Qibla (point of attention in prayer) was thus changed. Also fasting was made compulsory during the month of Ramazan. The year is important for other things too. For the first time in the city, courts started functioning, hygienic measures were introduced, lanes were widened and arrangements made to promote literacy, laws regulated the rights and duties of slaves, and people were enjoined to commit to writing all civil contracts.
Yet another great thing happened during the year. Muslims and the Quresh fought their first battle at Badr. The Prophet learnt that the Quresh were on their way to Medina with a big army. He started to meet the enemy far away from the town. He also came to know that a big trade caravan of the Quresh was on its way to Mecca; the Meccan army was there ostensibly to protect it. The prophet was prepared as best as he could. But he had not many means for an armed conflict. He had not many men either. Muslims were prepared to meet only the caravan. They were not in a position to meet the Quresh army.
The Meccans had raised a big force. They had enlisted every fighting man. Only two chiefs of the town were not willing to join them. One was Abu Lahab, an uncle, but a great enemy of the Prophet. His sister had had a fearful dream. He was frightened on that account. The other was Umaiyya bin Khalaf, another bitter enemy of Islam. He greatly feared death. He had learnt that Prophet had predicted that he would die in the battlefield. He knew the Prophet spoke the truth but he was forced to join the army against his will.
Before the Prophet took to the field, he wanted to know the mind of the Muslims. The Muhajirs were eager to lay down their lives at his command. The Ansar were no less willing. When asked, their chief, Saad bin Moaz, said,
“We are with you, wherever you go, o Prophet of Allah, if you tell us to jump in the sea, by God, we will.”
The Prophet was highly pleased. He told them that God had promised him a great victory. When they reached the valley of Badr, they found the enemy camp already there. Its force numbered one thousand. The Muslims numbered 313. The Quresh had 800 mounts, the Muslims only 30. Three hundred of the enemy had armour, of the Muslims only two.
The follower of the Prophet camped close to the enemy. A pavilion shaded the Prophet where he and Abu Bakr spent the night together. The Prophet prayed throughout the night and the next day. It was the 17th of Ramazan. Soon after sunrise the enemy made advance. Some of them came to the spring to fetch water. Muslims made to stop them. But the Prophet said,
“No, let them have access to the water.”
The Quresh sent out one Umar bin Wahab to do scout duty. He went round the Muslims on horse back. He returned to the Quresh in a state of panic. He said,
“O Quresh I did not see men on the mounts, I saw death riding on the backs of camels.”
So did the Muslims appear to him.
The first of the enemy force to seek battle were Utba, Shaiba and Walid. The Prophet ordered Hamza, Ali and Ubaidah to meet them. Hamza and Ali killed all three. Ubaida was fatally wounded. Then the Quresh made a general attack. The Prophet, who watched from his tent, prayed thus:
“O Lord, make good Thy promise. If today this party of Muslims is wiped out, there will be none left to worship Thee.”
Abu Jahl was also praying. His prayer was:
“O God, if we are in the wrong then stone us from above or punish us otherwise.”
Both were heard. The Muslims won, the Quresh lost the battle. Musilms fought with great courage. Two Ansar youth rushed to the spot where Abu Jahl had taken his position. In an instant they cut him down. The Prophet then ordered a general attack. Muslims fell on the enemy like lightning. The Quresh fled. Seventy were taken prisoner and as many lay dead. Among them were 24 leading chiefs. Umaiyya bin Khalaf was on the casualties. Thus was cut off the root of Meccan strength.
The dead Quresh were buried in one pit. The Prophet addressing the dead enemy, said,
“Did you find true the promise God had made to you? Well, I found His promise to me true.”
Then he said,
“O ye who lie in the pit, you were bad relations of your Prophet. You rejected me, others accepted me. You turned me out of my home, others gave me shelter. You made war on me, others aided me.”
Only fourteen Muslims were slain in the battle. There was great joy in Medina. There was great grief in Mecca. The star of the Prophet was up. The name of the Quresh was mud. They felt the disgrace keenly. They forbade all mourning and pledged to wipe out their shame with revenge. They will then and only then mourn their dead. But many had lost their sons, many their brothers, many their fathers and many their husbands. They could not bear the grief in silence for long. It is said that a man named Aswad once heard a woman weep. He had lost two sons and a grandson in Badr. He asked his servant to enquire if mourning had been permitted. He said, if it was so, he would like to cry.
“There is a fire burning inside me. I would love to weep to my heart’s content.”
The servant returned with the answer that woman had lost her camel and was therefore crying. Aswad was a poet. He at once uttered these lines:
“O woman, thou art weeping over the loss of a camel. Its grief is keeping thee from sleep. If thou must weep, then weep over Badr where our luck failed us. Aye, if thou must weep, then weep over my Adil and weep over my Harith, who was a lion among lions.”
Then there followed general mourning in Mecca. The only house that did not join was that of Abu Sufiyan. His wife Hinda would not shed a tear. She had lost her father and two brothers in Badr.
“Tears cannot put out the fire of my grief,”
“If they could, I would shed plenty.”
She wanted them to go to war against Muhammad. So did many others. Mecca made ready for revenge. It was to be a great battle. They wanted to finish the Muslims! So they made big preparations.
For the Muslims it was a great honour to have fought in Badr. Saad bin Abi Viqas was one of them. Later, he founded Kufa. He was also governor of Iraq. He conquered Iraq. He conquered Iran. He was young when he took part in the battle of Badr. He died at the age of eighty. Before his death, he asked for the cloak he had worn at Badr. He had kept it safe. He put it on when he was dying. He said he had saved it for that day. He was buried in the same cloak.
The Prophet ordered that the enemy prisoners of war should be treated with kindness. At that time perisoners of war were dealt with very savegely. They were kept as slaves and used as beasts. The Prophet was the first man in history to give prisoners of war humane treatment. He ordered that they should be set free on payment of ransom. Some prisoners were asked to teach Muslims how to read and write. This duty was to earn them their freedom. Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet, who had been forced to join the Meccan army, was taken prisoner. He was bound up like the others. He felt pain and moaned at night. The Prophet felt very uneasy on that account. The Muslims noted this. They at once loosened the bonds of Abbas. He felt at peace. When he did not moan any more, the Prophet knew the reason why. He ordered all the prisoners to be treated alike. Soon the bonds of all were made loose.
Muslims were very good to the Quresh prisoners of war. They gave them food and starved themselves. They gave them mounts and themselves walked on foot.