The modern English dictionary defines a hypocrite as, “a person who pretends to be what he is not.” An accurate description of this person’s behavior is read as, “the practice of professing standards and beliefs contrary to one’s real character or actual behavior.” The victory achieved by the Muslims at the battle of Badr sent a shiver into the hearts of all those who did not wish Islam well. It is wrong to assume that the Quraysh in Makkah were the only enemy of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had his state in Madeenah, where an alliance and a bond of brotherhood was established between its Muslim inhabitants and the few hundreds who emigrated with the Prophet from Makkah. Newcomers were joining every day.
A large section of the population of Madeenah simply preferred to stick to idolatrous beliefs. Realizing that the victory in Badr could only add to the strength of the Muslims and enhance their reputation throughout Arabia, many of the Arabs in Madeenah who chose not to become Muslims felt that they could protect their interests only if they joined the new Muslim camp. This realization, however, was not based on any appreciation on their part of the truth of Islam. It was simply motivated by their instinct for self preservation. They feared that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions would follow the victory achieved at Badr with more resounding victories making them undisputed masters in the whole of Arabia. If that eventuality would come to pass while they themselves remained non-believers, they would miss out, according to them, on their opportunity to be part of this mastery.
Joining the ranks of the believers seemed to them a very attractive proposition, because it would spare them any hostility on the part of the Muslims. If they continued to stay aside, leaving the tide of Islam to go its way while they kept to their old practices, they feared that they might be reduced to total insignificance. They wrestled with the problem of assimilating into the new set-up. How would they be able to pull this off even though they did not believe in Islam and could not accept.
Muhammad as a messenger of Allah? This was the dilemma facing many nonbelievers in Madeenah. They did not take long to discover their way out and decided to take a hypocritical stand. They simply pretended to be Muslims, while deep in their hearts there was no shred of faith in Islam The role of the Hypocrites in the battle of ‘Uhud was crucial to the outcome of the battle and the fortunes of the Muslims. Both the Quraysh and the Jews were partnered by the hypocrites who faked Islam just to save their faces. They were a people who did not care less about belief and only concentrated on worldly gain. In fact they also swore to avenge the defeat at Badr because they feared that they would lose their means of existence if a powerful Muslim state should rise up in Madeenah and put an end to their practices of looting and plundering.
The scouting party of Madinah conveyed the news of the Makkan army’s movement, step by step. The Messenger of Allah then held a head military consultation assembly to exchange views about the situation. He then offered a suggestion that his Companions should not go out of Madeenah and that they should encamp themselves within the city. He was of the opinion that the enemies should be left in the open to exhaust themselves and thus the Muslims would not risk a battle. However, if they thought of attacking Madeenah, Muslim men would be ready to fight them at the mouths of lanes, whereas Muslim women would help from above, on the roofs of houses.» ‘Abdullah bin Ubay bin Salul — the head of the hypocrites; who attended the meeting as a chief of Al-Khazraj — supported the Prophet’s plan.
As a matter of fact his agreement was not based on the righteousness of the plan but rather on personal benefit. He did not want to fight. On the contrary he secretly aimed at being far away from the fight when it mattered. However it was Allah’s will that he should be disclosed and disgraced in public — for the first time. It was His will that the curtain which concealed their disbelief should be uncovered and pulled away. Allah’s will enabled the Muslims to recognize the reality of those snakes that were creeping within their garments and inside the sleeves of their clothes. Thanks to Allah, they recognized them at one of the most critical times in their lives.
The army consisted of a thousand fighters of which a hundred of them were armored and there were also fifty horsemen. He appointed Ibn Umm Maktum to lead the people in prayer in Madeenah. Departure was announced and the army moved northwards with the two Sa‘ds, who were armored, running in front of the army. They passed along Al-Wada’ mountain trail and soon reached a location called Ash-Shaikhan. Here the Prophet (peace be upon him) paraded his army. As night fell upon them there, they performed both the sunset and the evening prayers and spent the night there as well.
Just before daybreak the Prophet (peace be upon him) moved and when he got to Ash-Shawt he observed the dawn prayer there.. There he was so close to the enemy that they could see one another. It was there that ‘Abdullah bin Ubay, the hypocrite, rebelled against the Muslims. One-third of the army withdrew with him — that was about three hundred fighters. He said, «We do not know why we shall kill ourselves.» He claimed that his withdrawal was no more than to protest against the Messenger of Allah whom he felt had already refused his opinion and accepted that of the others.
Undoubtedly that was not the real cause of his detachment. If it had been the refusal of his opinion. as the hypocrite claimed, there would have been no sense whatsoever for his joining the Prophetic army. If it had been so, he would have refused to go out with the army from the very beginning of the march. As a matter of fact, the real purpose of this rebellion, at this delicate and awkward position in time, was to produce bewilderment, confusion and disorder in the Muslims army. The Muslim army was within the sight and hearing range of the enemy who were also looking forward to sowing more dissension on the side of the Muslims. They also aimed to break the high morale of the believers That would accelerate, in their opinion, the breakdown and consequent death of Muhammad, his faithful Companions and Islam as a whole. They thought that the way would then be clear for the reclaiming of everything that the hypocrites had lost during the push of Islam into Madeenah.
Without Allah’s intervention the hypocrite’s plot would have been successful. Banu Haritha of Al-Aws and Banu Salama of Al-Khazraj were partially impressed by the hypocrite’s behavior. Both of them were overwhelmed by confusion and had almost begun to withdraw, but Allah saved them from that disgrace. Allah says:
“ When two parties from among you were about to lose their heart, but Allah was their Waliyy (supporter and protector). And in Allah should the believers put their trust.” (Ali-‘Imraan:122)
‘Abdullah bin Haram — the father of Jabir bin ‘Abdullah — attempted to stop their withdrawal. He reminded the hypocrites of their duty at this delicate and awkward condition, but it was in vain. He followed them, reproached them and urged them to go back saying: «Come and fight in the way of Allah or at least be defenders.» They said: «If we had known that you would really fight we would have not gone back.» Having despaired of them, he addressed them saying: «May Allah cast you away, you enemies of Allah. Allah will certainly suffice His Prophet (peace be upon him).» Allah says about those hypocrites:
And that He might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: ‘Come, fight in the way of Allah or (at least) defend yourselves.’ They said: ‘Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.’ They were that day, nearer to disbelief than to Faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah has full knowledge of what they conceal.” (Ali-‘Imraan:167)
The hypocrites exposed themselves clearly while on the fringes of the battle of Uhud. They would henceforth be recognized as one of the greatest enemies of Islam. The Qur’aan makes frequent mention of this despised group and it acts as a warning to all true believers.
The Encounter at Uhud Its Location and Events
The Messenger of Allah mobilized his army. He arranged them into two rows to prepare them for the fight. He selected fifty skillful archers that formed a squad and placed them under the command of ‘Abdullah bin Jubair bin An-Nu‘man Al-Ansari Al-Awsi Al-Badri. He ordered them to stay where they were on a mountainside at the south bank of Qanat Al Wadi (i.e. a canal of the valley), south- east of the Muslims’ camp, at about one hundred and fifty meters from the Islamic army. Later on, this mountain was called the Mountain of Archers.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) clarified the mission of this squad in words he directed to them. He said to their leader: «Drive off the horses from us by means of arrows, lest they should attack us from behind (the rear). Whether we win the battle or lose it, stand steadily in your position and be sure that we are not attacked from your side.» ( Ibn Hisham) He added: «Defend our backs! If you see us slain, do not come to assist us; and if you see gaining grounds, do not share with us.» ( Fathul Baari) Al-Baraa’ bin Aazib said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
” If you see us snatched into pieces by birds, do not leave this position till I send for you. If you see that we have defeated the enemy and trodden on them, do not desert your position till I send for you.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaari)
With the assignment of this squad, and by locating it on the mountainside with those strict military orders, the Prophet (peace be upon him) blocked the only groove that might lead the idolaters stealthily to the rear of Muslim ranks, and enable them to encircle them in an encompassment procedure.
The assignments of posts and responsibilities for the rest of the army were performed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) as follows: On the right wing, he appointed Al-Mundhir bin ‘Amr. On the left he appointed Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam, and made Al-Miqdad bin Al-Aswad his assistant and supporter. Az-Zubair’s function was to stand fast in the face of Khalid bin Al-Waleed’s horsemen. The Messenger of Allah elected the top and the most courageous group to be in the vanguard of the army. They were notable for their readiness and bravery and estimated to be equal to thousands of men.
It was a wise and carefully-laid plan which revealed the genius of military leadership that the Prophet (peace be upon him) possessed. No other leader could have drawn a more accurate or wiser plan. Although he approached the site later than the enemy, he managed to occupy better positions. He made the rocky mountainside function as a shield for the army’s rear and right flank. He was able, by blocking the only vulnerable gap on the side, to provide additional maximum protection for the rear as well as the left wing. For fear of possible defeat, and to deter the Muslims from fleeing, he chose a high place for encampment. Furthermore, a strategic site of this sort would surely inflict heavy losses on the polytheists if they thought of approaching or occupying his positions. In a further step, he reduced the enemy to a narrow scope of choice when they were cornered for encampment, in geographically low positions that would avail them nothing of the benefits of any possible victory. At the same time they would not be able to escape the pursuit of the Muslims in the event of victory for the latter. To make up for the quantitative shortage in fighting personnel, he chose a picked body of fighters to stand at the front. The army of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was thus fully mobilized on Shawwal 7th, 3 A.H.
The idolaters applied the rows system in the mobilization of their army. The general leadership of the army was entrusted to Abu Sufyan Sakhr bin Harb, who would be in the centre-position of the army. Khalid bin Al-Waleed was on the right wing; whereas ‘Ikrima, the son of Abu Jahl was on the left. Safwan bin Omaiya was in charge of infantry men. The archers were under the command of ‘Abdullah bin Abi Rabi‘a. A squad of Bani ‘Abd Ad-Dar were in charge of bearing the standard. This was the distribution of the posts of the army ever since ‘Abd Munaf had assigned them. This assignment had been inherited from Qusai bin Kilab and no one had the right to compete for it.
Qurayshi women participated in the battle led by the wife of Abu Sufyan, Hind bint ‘Utbah. They wandered among the rows of the idolaters, tapped on tambourines, encouraged men to fight, and inflamed the emotions of heroes, lancers, swordsmen and brave fighters. The two parties approached and grew very close to each another. The phases of fight started. The first combatant was the standard-bearer, Talha bin Abi Talha Al-‘Abdari, who was the most distinguished idolater. He was one of the bravest men of Quraish fighters. Muslims nicknamed him ‘the Ram of the Battalion.’ He came forth riding a camel and challenged the Muslims to a single combat. People refrained from fighting him due to his bravery; but Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam advanced for the fight. He did not give the ‘Ram’ any chance to fight, but fell on him like a lion on his camel’s back, pulled him down to the ground and slaughtered him with his sword. The Messenger of Allah who was watching that wonderful incident, exclaimed: Allaahu Akbar ‘Allah is the Greatest’ and the Muslims exclaimed Allaahu Akbar too. Soon the general engagement ensued and the fighting of the two parties grew fierce everywhere on the battlefield. The strain of the fight was centered on the carriers of the standard. After the death of their leader Talha bin Abi Talha, Banu ‘Abd Ad-Dar alternated the mission successively.
Talha’s brother, ‘Uthmaan, ran forward and seized the standard which lay by the lifeless body of his brother, chanting: «The standard-bearer has the right to dye its shaft in blood, till it be beaten in his hand.» Hamzah bin ‘Abdul Muttalib attacked and dealt him a blow that cut his arm and shoulder and went down to his navel to uncover his lung.
The standard was raised up again by Abu Sa‘d bin Abi Talha; but Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqas shot him with a deadly arrow that hit him at his throat and made his tongue hang out as he breathed his last. Whilst the brunt of the battle centered around the standard, bitter fighting was going on everywhere on the battlefield. The spirit of faith overwhelmed the Muslims’ ranks, and they rushed among the idolaters as if there had been an outbreak of a destructive flood that overflowed and knocked down all dams and barriers standing in its way. «I seek death, I seek death.» – That was their announced motto on Uhud Day. Hamzah bin ‘Abdul Muttalib displayed wonderful feats of unparalleled gallantry against the overwhelming odds and created consternation and confusion in the disbelieving hosts. Heroes dispersed out of his way as if they had been leaves, blown away by a strong wind. In addition to his effective contribution to the annihilation of the idolaters who stood in defense of the standard, he was of greater effect at fighting against men of bravery and distinguished horsemen.. He was not killed in a face-to-face fight on the battlefield, but rather assassinated in a cowardly manner, in the dead-dark.
Although the death of Asad (Lion) of Allah and His Messenger — Hamzah bin ‘Abdul Muttalib — was a great loss, the Muslims maintained full control over the whole situation on the battlefield. On that day, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam, Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair, Talha bin ‘Ubaidullâh, ‘Abdullah bin Jahsh, Sa‘d bin Ar-Rabee‘ and Anas bin An-Nadr and others, all fought so fiercely, effectively and efficiently, that they broke the strong will of the idolaters and scattered them. The squad of archers, whom the Messenger of Allah located on the Archers Mountain, had the upper hand in administering the war activities to go in favor of the Muslim army. The Makkan horsemen — commanded by Khalid bin Al-Waleed and supported by Abu ‘Amir Al-Fâsiq, had for three times attacked the left wing of the Muslim army, with the aim of crushing it and then infiltrating the rear to create a sort of confusion and disorder in the ranks of the Muslims and subsequently inflict heavy losses on them. Thanks to the dexterity and great efforts of the archers, the three assaults were thwarted. War activities went on fiercely with the Muslims in full command of the whole military developments until the idolaters finally staggered and retreated, leaving all motives of alleged pride and affected dignity in oblivion. Their standard was trodden by the feet of the fighters with none courageous enough to approach it. It seemed as if the three thousand idolaters had been fighting thirty thousand Muslims and not merely several hundreds.
Unfortunately, things went horribly wrong for the Muslim armies who were on the brink of success in this campaign. The small army of Islam was recording the second absolute and clear victory over the Makkans, which was no less in splendor and glory than the first one at Badr. 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.
ICO’s Publications – Islamic Studies curriculum – Grade 11/ Part1 https://goo.gl/AougA8