55 – After Uhud

The sun was setting as they approached the city and they prayed the sunset prayer as soon as they reached the Mosque. The Prophet then lay down to rest and fell into so deep a sleep that he did not hear Bilal’s call to the night prayer, but prayed it alone in his house when he woke. The two Sa’ds of the Helpers and other leaders of Aws and Khazraj spent the night at the door of the Mosque and took it in turns to stand on guard, for there was still always the possibility that Quraysh might return; and early the next morning, when the prayer had been prayed, the Prophet told Bilal to announce to them and to others that the enemy must be pursued. “But none shall go out with us,” he said, “save those who were present at the battle of yesterday.”

When the chiefs returned to their various clans they found most of the men tending their wounds or having them tended by their women, for very few of the fighters at Uhud were unscathed, and many of them were severely injured. But on hearing the Prophet’s summons they bandaged their wounds as best as they could and made themselves ready to set out once again, all except Malik and Shammas. Malik, now in an extremity of weakness, was being tended by his family. Shammas, none of whose nearest of kin were in Medina, had been carried unconscious from the battlefield to ‘A’ishah’s apartment. But Umm Salamah claimed the right to tend her fellow clansman, so he was put in her charge. Since his death seemed imminent, the Prophet left instructions that he should not be buried in Medina but with his fellow martyrs at Uhud.

The Prophet himself was one of the first to be ready, although he could now scarcely move his right shoulder, which had taken the shock of the blow intended for his head. When Talhah came to inquire about the time of departure, he was astonished to see him on horseback at the door of the mosque, with his visor down and nothing visible of him but his eyes. Disabled though he was, Talhah ran to his house to make himself ready.

Amongst those of the Bani Salimah who set out there were forty wounded men, some of them with more than ten gashes or thrusts or arrow wounds; and when they stood in line for the Prophet at the appointed place and he saw what plight they were in he rejoiced at the power of their souls over their bodies, and prayed: “O God, have mercy upon the Bani Salimah!” Of all the clans, only one man went out who had not fought at Uhud, and that was Jabir. On hearing the summons that morning he had gone to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of God, I was eager to be present at the battle, but my father left me in charge of my seven young sisters. And thus it was that for martyrdom God preferred him to me, though I had hoped for it. So let me go with thee now, O Messenger of God.” And the Prophet gave him permission to march out with the others.

They made their first halt about eight miles from Medina. The enemy were by that time encamped at Rawha’, which was not far ahead. On hearing this the Prophet ordered his men to spread themselves over a wide area of ground and to gather as much wood as they could find, piling it up each man for himself in a separate pile. By sunset they had prepared over five hundred beacons, and when night had fallen every man set fire to him. The flames were seen far and wide, as if a great army were encamped there. This impression was confirmed for Abu Sufyan by a man of Khuza’ah who, though still an idolater, was friendly to the Muslims and who told him with deliberate untruth that the whole city of Medina had come out in pursuit of them, including all those who had stayed behind from Uhud and all their confederates. “By God,” he said, “ye will not have moved off before ye have seen the forelocks of their cavalry.” Some of Quraysh had wanted to return and attack Medina, but they now unanimously decided to press on with all speed for Mecca. None the less Abu Sufyan sent back a parting message for the Prophet by some riders who were on their way to medina for provisions. “Tell Muhammad from me,” he said, “that we are resolved to come against him and his companions and to root them out, those that yet remain, from the face of the earth. Tell him this, and when ye reach ‘Ukaz on your return I will load your camel with raisins.” When they delivered the message to the Prophet, he answered in the words of a recent Revelation:

God is our sufficiency, and supremely to be trusted is He.[1]

He and his Companions spent the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at their camp, lighting beacons every night, and those were days of much-needed rest and plenty. There had been an excellent fruit harvest the previous summer, and Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah had loaded thirty camels with dates, and others had been brought to be sacrificed. On the Thursday they returned to Medina.

Shammas had died soon after they had set out and he had been buried at Uhud. Malik had also died during their absence, but his family had buried him in Medina. The Prophet now gave orders that his body should be taken to Uhud and buried there.

On his return from fighting at Uhud, ‘Abd Allah the son of Ibn Ubayy had spent part of the night after the battle cauterizing a wound, while his father enlarged on the folly of having gone out to attack the enemy. “By God, it was as if I had seen it all,” he said. “What God did for His Messenger and the Muslims was good,” said his son. But Ibn Ubayy was not to open to argument. “If the slain had been with us, they would not have been slain,” he insisted. Nor had be been silent during his son’s recent absence from Medina with the rest of the fighters, neither had the Jews refrained from affirming with more conviction than ever: “Muhammad is nothing but a seeker of kingship. No Prophet hath ever met with such reverse. He was smitten in his own body, as well as in his companions.”

Much of what had been said by both Jews and hypocrites was repeated to ‘Umar on his return from the expedition of the beacons. He immediately went to the Prophet and asked his permission to kill those who were responsible, but the Prophet forbade him to do so. “God will make prevail His religion,” he said, “and He will empower His Prophet.” Then he said: “O son of Khattab, verily Quraysh shall not gain from us the like of that day again, and we shall greet the Corner.”[2] -he meant that they would enter Mecca and kiss Black Stone.

Although ‘Umar’s hands were tied, Ibn Ubayy did not escape altogether unscathed. He had taken to occupying a place of honor in the Mosque at the Friday prayer, and no one had thought to deny him this on account of his standing in Medina. When the Prophet mounted the pulpit to preach, he would rise and say: “O people, this is the Messenger of God. May God through him be bountiful to you and give you strength! Help he him therefore and honor him and hear him and obey him.” Then he would be seated again. But when he rose to speak as usual on the day after their return, the first Friday since Uhud, those of the Helpers who were nearest him seized him on both sides, saying “Sit, thou enemy of God. Thou art not worthy to hold forth, having done what thou didst,” whereupon he left the congregation, threading his way through the densely seated men. One of the Helpers who met him at the door of the Mosque said to him: “Return and let the Messenger of God ask forgiveness for thee.” But he said: “By God, I want not that he should ask forgiveness for me.”

In the days which followed Uhud, the Prophet received many Revelations concerning the battle, and it appeared from them that a considerable portion of two of the clans had seriously thought of deserting the army shortly before the fight was joined, and that God had strengthened them and given them resolution. One of the two were the Bani Salimah of Khazraj, whose bearing had so pleased the Prophet as they were setting out in pursuit of the enemy. When they and the Bani Harithah of Aws heard the Revelation[3] they said that they were the ones referred to, but that they did not regret their moment of weakness because it had brought them strength from God, which was better than their own strength. Other verses were revealed with reference to those survivors of the sudden cavalry charge who had fled in panic to the mountain, and in particular to those of them who had previously urged to go out to fight, so that they might attain to martyrdom.

Deemed ye that ye would enter Paradise ere God knoweth those of you that truly strive and ere He knoweth the steadfast? Ye wished for death until ye met it; now ye have seen it face to face![4]

But the Revelation made it none the less clear that those who had disobeyed orders had expiated their faults on the battlefield and had been forgiven. Part of their expiation had been their great sorrow at hearing that the Prophet was dead.[5] It was also affirmed, with reference to the visible ruins that remained from previous civilizations, that the established order of things in Arabia would pass away, and that Islam would triumph:

Ways of life have passed away before you. Travel in the land and see what was the end of those who belied God’s messengers. This is a clear affirmation for mankind, and a guidance and an exhortation for the pious. Falter not nor grieve, for ye shall overcome them if ye are true believers.[6]

There was also another reference to the future, of a different kind:

Muhammad is but a messenger, and messengers have passed away before him. If he die or be slain, will ye then turn upon your heels? Whoso turneth upon his heels will thereby do not hurt unto God; and God will reward the thankful.[7]


[1] Qur’an 3 : 173
[2] W. 317
[3] Qur’an 3 : 122
[4] Qur’an 3 : 142 – 143
[5] Qur’an 3 : 152 – 155
[6] Qur’an 3 : 137 – 139
[7] Qur’an 3 : 144

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