There are many events in the history of Islam that define it and lay its foundation. In previous posts, I have written about two events that Muslims view as significant to Islamic history: the initial revelations of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad and the hijra or emigration of the Muslims from Mecca to Medina. The first revelations established the new faith and the emigration established a new community. The focus of this post is the Battle of Badr, the first major battle between the Muslims and Quraysh, the most powerful tribe in Mecca.
For the first 13 years of Islam, despite intense persecution, the Muslims did not fight Quraysh. Once in Medina, the Prophet Muhammad received a revelation giving the Muslims permission to respond militarily. In the two years after the emigration, the encounters between the two groups were small skirmishes and raids. In Ramadan of 624 CE, this changed.
That year, the Prophet Muhammad received information that Quraysh had a large caravan returning from Syria to Mecca. The Muslims planned to raid the caravan in retaliation for Quraysh’s taking the property that Muslims could not take with them to Medina. The Prophet Muhammad did not intend to go to battle. Abu Sufyan, one of the Meccan leaders who was with the caravan, received word of the plan for the raid and called on the Meccans to send troops to protect the caravan.
Before the Prophet decided to fight the Meccans, he consulted his followers who were made of up Muslims who emigrated from Mecca (called muhajirun) and Muslims from Medina (called ansar). He waited for the support of the Muslims from Medina because the Constitution of Medina that they signed on to did not include fighting outside of Medina. Once he received their support, the Prophet Muhammad decided to engage in battle.
At the wells of Badr, the Muslims and the Meccans met for battle. The Muslims were outnumbered by the Meccans 3 to 1. The battle began with an Arab tradition where each side sends out warriors to fight each other. Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law and cousin, Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle, and Ubayda, a companion of the Prophet from his clan, represented the Muslims and defeated the Meccan warriors. The battle then began and ended with a decisive victory for the Muslims.
This victory was important in Islamic history because it gave the Muslims a boost in morale. They saw this victory as a sign from God. This view was further supported by verses in the Qur’an. One example is verses 123-125 in chapter 3:
Allah had helped you at Badr, when ye were a contemptible little force; then fear Allah; thus may ye show your gratitude. Remember thou saidst to the Faithful: Is it not enough for you that Allah should help you with three thousand angels (specially) sent down? “Yea”? if ye remain firm, and act aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would help you with five thousand angels making a terrific onslaught.
In these verses, the Muslims were told that their victory was a result of God’s intervention, sending thousands of angels to fight with the Muslims. This battle was also significant because it established the Muslims as a formidable force in Arabia.
The importance of this battle in the history of Islam continues into the present day. In fact, several military operations in the last 50 years were named after this battle because it signifies victory. “Operation Badr,” for example,was used by the Egyptian army in 1973. Thus, the Battle of Badr is an important event in the history of Islam and continues to have relevance for Muslims everywhere.
What is your reaction when your hear the story of the Battle of Badr? What are other important events in the history of Islam? Are there events like the Battle of Badr that have significance in other faith traditions? Why are they considered significant? Please share your comments below.