God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, advanced with the remaining seven hundred Muslims, much less in number and equipment than their enemies, and lined up his troops at the foot of Mount Uhud in such a manner that the mountain was behind and the Quraysh army in front of them. There was only a mountain pass from where the Muslims could be subjected to a surprise attack. God's Messenger posted fifty archers there as guards under the command of 'Abd Allah ibn Jubayr, instructing him neither to let anyone approach nor to move away from that spot, adding: Even if you see birds fly off with our flesh, still you must not move away from this place. (2)
The standard of God's Messenger was again in the hands of Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr. Zubayr ibn 'Awwam commanded the cavalry and, Hamza, the infantry. The army was ready to begin the battle. In order to encourage his Companions, the Prophet had brought forth a sword and asked: Who would like to have this sword in return for giving its due? Abu Dujana asked: 'What is its due?' It is to fight with it until it is broken, the Prophet answered. Abu Dujana took it and was engaged in fighting. (3) Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas and 'Abd Allah ibn Jahsh prayed to God to make them encounter the strongest soldiers of the enemy. Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet and who was known as the Lion of God, wore an ostrich feather on his breast. The verse revealed to describe the godly persons around previous Prophets pointed also to them:
Many a Prophet there was, with whom a large number of God-devoted men fought. They fainted not for anything that befell them in the way of God, neither weakened, nor did they abase themselves. God loves the steadfast. Nothing else did they say but, 'Our Lord, forgive us our sins, and that we exceeded in our affair, and make firm our feet, and help us against the people of the unbelievers.' And God gave them the reward of the world and the good reward of the Hereafter. God loves the good-doers. (Al 'Imran, 3. 146–8)
In the first stage of the battle, the Muslims defeated the enemy, so easily so that Abu Dujana, with the sword the Prophet had given him, advanced as far as the central part of the Quraysh army and, encountering Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, who was the commander of the Quraysh army, attempted to kill her but, 'in order not to dirty the sword given by the Prophet with the blood of a woman', spared her life. (4) 'Ali had killed Talha ibn Abi Talha, the standard-bearer of the enemy. Those who took hold of the standard of the Quraysh one after the other had all been killed by either 'Ali or 'Asim ibn Thabit or Zubayr ibn 'Awwam. After that, the self-sacrificing heroes of the Muslim army like Hamza, 'Ali, Abu Dujana, Zubayr ibn 'Awwam, and Miqdad ibn 'Amr thrust themselves into the ranks of the enemy and put them to flight.
When the enemy began to flee the battlefield, the Muslims occupied themselves with the spoils. The archers on the mountain pass saw their brothers collecting booty, and said to themselves. 'God has defeated the enemy, and our brothers are collecting the spoils. Let us go and join them.'
'Abd Allah ibn Jubayr tried to persuade them not to leave their posts by reminding them of the Prophet's directive, but they answered: 'He ordered us to do that without knowing that the matter would come to what we now see'. Except a few who remained at their posts, they took part in collecting booty. Khalid ibn Walid, who was at that time an unbeliever and who commanded the Quraysh cavalry, seized this opportunity. He rode with his men around Mount Uhud and attacked the flank of the Muslim army through the pass. 'Abd Allah ibn Jubayr's depleted forces tried unsuccessfully to resist the attack.
2. Bukhari, Jihad, 164; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 6.
6. Muslim, Fada'il al-Sahabah, 128; I. Hanbal, 3.123.
4. Haythami, Majma' al-Zawa'id, 6.109.
The fleeing soldiers of the enemy also returned and joined the attack from the front and the scales of the battle turned against the Muslims. The suddenness of these attacks by outnumbering forces, from both the rear and the front, caused great confusion among the Muslim ranks. The enemy forces wanted to either seize God's Messenger alive or kill him, and attacked him from all sides, striking with swords, thrusting with spears, shooting arrows and hurling stones. Those who defended him fought heroically.
Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, had lost her father and brothers in the Battle of Badr and urged Wahshi, a black slave, to kill Hamza. When the scales of the battle turned against the Muslims, Hamza thrust himself into the ranks of the enemy like a furious lion. He had killed almost thirty of them when the lance of Wahshi struck him just above the thigh and pierced it. Hind came forward and ordered Hamza's stomach to be split open. She mutilated his body and chewed his liver. (5)
Ibn Kami'a martyred Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr, the standard-bearer of God's Messenger and who had been fighting before him. Mus'ab resembled God's Messenger in build and complexion. This resemblance led Ibn Kami'a to announce that he had killed God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. Meanwhile, the Messenger himself had been wounded by a blow of the sword and stones hurled at him. He fell in a pit and, bleeding profusely, stretched his hands and prayed: O God, forgive my people, because they do not know (the truth). (6)
The rumour that the Prophet had been martyred led many Companions to lose courage. But, in addition to those like 'Ali, Abu Dujana, Sahl ibn Hunayf, Talha ibn 'Ubayd Allah, Anas ibn Nadr and 'Abd Allah ibn Jahsh, who fought self-sacri-ficingly, some Muslim women, having heard the rumour, hastened to the battlefield. Of them, one from Banu Dinar, called Sumayra, had lost her husband, father and brother, but she was asking about God's Messenger. When she saw him, she said: 'All the misfortunes mean nothing to me as long as you are alive, O God's Messenger!' (7) Another one, named Umm 'Umara, fought before the Messenger so heroically that the Messenger told her: Who else can endure all that you endure? That pride of womanhood took this opportunity to ask the Messenger to pray God for her: 'O Messenger of God! Pray to God to join me in your company in Paradise!' The Messenger prayed: O God, join her with me in Paradise! She responded to this prayer: 'Whatever happens to me from now on, I will not care it any more .' (8) Anas ibn Nadr heard the rumour that God's Messenger had been martyred. He fought so valiantly that he suffered eighty wounds. (9) They found Sa'd ibn Rabi' giving his last breath. He had received seventy wounds. His last words were 'Convey my greetings to God's Messenger. I sense the fragrance of Paradise from behind Uhud.' (10)
Besides Abu Dujana and Sahl ibn Hunayf, 'Ali stood in front of God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and defended him during the battle. Once, the Messenger pointed to him some of the enemy who had come down from the hill. 'Ali repelled them. Then, the Messenger pointed to him some more of the enemy. Again he attacked them and put them to flight. The Prophet then pointed to him another group of the enemy. Yet again 'Ali attacked them and put them to flight. (11)
Despite the indescribable resistance of the Muslim warriors around God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, defeat seemed inevitable until Ka'b ibn Malik, seeing God's Messenger, shouted: 'O Muslims! Good tidings for you! This is God's Messenger, here!' The scattered Companions advanced toward him from all sides, rallied around him, and led him to the safety of the mountain.
6. Qadi 'Iyad, Shifa', 1.78–9; Kanz al-'Ummal, 4.93.
7. I. Hisham, 3.99.
8. I. Sa'd, Tabaqat, 8. 413–5.
9. I. Hanbal, 3.201; Bayhaqi, Sunan, 9.44.
10. I. Kathir, al-Bidayah, 4.35–6.
11. Tabari, Tarikh, 3.17; I. Athir, al-Kamil, 2.74; I. Hisham, Sirah, 3.100.