The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 3: The Battle of Uhud

 Part I: In the Time of the Prophet (SAWS)

 

Page: 14

"Enough is enough", replied Safwan bin Umayyah. "We have won the battle, and this victory should be sufficient for us. If the Muslims are in a bad way, we too are not in perfect condition. Most of our horses and many of our men are wounded. In the next battle, if we fight it with our present strength, we might not be as lucky as we were yesterday." 1

By now the Quraish leaders had also heard of the defection of the 300 Hypocrites. The fear that troubled them was the possibility of the return of these 300 in a repentant mood to the Prophet, for this would considerably augment the strength of the Muslims with fresh troops. While this argument was in progress, the Quraish soldiers discovered and caught two Muslim scouts who had been sent by the Prophet to seek information of the Quraish. These scouts were promptly killed, but their presence confirmed the fears of Safwan and Abu Sufyan that the Muslims were in an aggressive mood and sought battle. Abu Sufyan promptly gave orders for the move to Makkah; and the Quraish army rode away.

In the afternoon the Muslims arrived at Hamrat-ul-Asad and found it deserted. They set up camp. After four nights at Hamrat-ul-Asad, they returned to Madinah.

The campaign of Uhud was over. A total of 70 Muslims had fallen in battle. Abu Sufyan had killed one. Safwan bin Ummayya, Khalid and Ikrimah had each killed three Muslims. On the Quraish side, 22 unbelievers had been killed including six by Ali and three by Hamza, It was a defeat for the Muslims, but not a decisive one.

This was the second major battle in the history of Islam. It was the first battle in which Abu Sufyan commanded an army against the Muslims, and the first battle in the life of Khalid. The Holy Prophet lost this battle, and the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the fickle archers who disobeyed the orders of the Prophet and of their own immediate commander, In fact, in leaving their position these archers momentarily ceased to be Muslims and became tribal Arabs, bent on plunder.

Several writers have expressed the opinion that the Arabs of this period were ignorant about regular warfare; that militarily they were nothing better than raiders, and that they knew nothing about regular battles. It has been suggested by many of these writers that the Arabs learnt the art of war from the Romans and the Persians with whom they came into military contact after the Prophet's death. This is just not true. We have already considered the dispositions adopted by the Prophet and the sound military reasons underlying his deployment. It should also be noted that in selecting the bettlefield the Prophet left Madinah open to assault by the Quraish, Madinah was the base of the Muslims, but the route to that base, which ran south of the Muslim position, was open to Abu Sufyan, The Muslims were not in the way of Abu Sufyan had he decided to move to Madinah. In this decision, the Prophet guessed rightly that Abu Sufyan would not dare to move to Madinah, because in doing so he would expose his flank and rear to attack by the Muslims. And this is just what happened. Abu Sufyan did not move to Madinah for fear of the Muslims who stood on the flank of the route. This was a classic example, repeated time and again in military history, of a force defending its base not by sitting on it for a frontal action, but by threatening from a flank any enemy movement towards that base.

While Abu Sufyan was forced to fight the battle under conditions not favourable to him, the disposition of his forces was sound, following the normal pattern, as practised by the Romans and the Persians, of having a main body of infantry in the centre and mobile wings for manoeuvre against the enemy's flanks and rear. So far as the selection of the battlefield and the dispositions are concerned, it is doubtful if any Roman or Persian general commanding these forces could have acted differently and deployed the forces in another manner than done by the Prophet and Abu Sufyan. Certainly no critic has offered us a better solution!

Another important fact which this battle brings out is the military judgement and skill of Khalid. When the main body of the Quraish fled, its smaller parts-the cavalry squadrons-remained firm on the battlefield. Generally when the bulk of an army flees its parts do not remain. In this we see the unusual courage of Khalid (and Ikrimah) in keeping their squadrons under control on the battlefield, although reason could suggest no possible advantage in doing so. We see the patience of Khalid and his refusal to accept defeat. It was only the keen eye of Khalid which observed the opening left by the archers when they abandoned their position. He saw the opening and took an immediate decision to exploit the opportunity with a rapid riposte which would get him into the vulnerable rear of the Muslims. It was this brilliant manoeuvre by Khalid which turned the near-complete victory of the Muslims into their near-complete defeat.

1. Ibn Hisham: Vol. 2, p. 104; Waqidi: Maghazi, pp. 231-2, 263.