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Jihad in the Koran

The Civil War Which Started It All

Battle of Badr

The Prophet and his followers, after being run out of Mecca, took refuge in Medina from which they attacked the caravans passing between the Red Sea and the oasis city on their way to and from Mecca, igniting a civil war.

Narrated Jabir:

The Prophet sent us as an army unit of three hundred warriors under the command of Abu Ubaida to ambush a caravan of the Quraish ...

Bukhari 67.402

The first real battle of what would become a bloody fratricidal war was an attack on a force of an estimated one thousand Meccans sent to protect a large caravan which the Muslims intended to plunder.

God's Messenger initially wanted to attack the caravan before the Meccan forces could intervene, but Allah promised him a victory no matter which he chose to attack. With God’s guarantee of victory, His Messenger decided on the Meccan armed detachment, a decision which did not meet with unanimous approval.

8:5 Just as when your (meaning Muhammad) Lord brought you out in truth from your house (to fight), though a group of the believers disliked it.

8:6 They disputed with you concerning the Truth after it had become manifest, as though they were being led to their deaths while looking on.

8:7 And [remember] how Allah promised you that one of the two [enemy] groups (the Meccan caravan of Quraysh and the army which was sent to defend it) would be yours, and you wanted the unarmed one (the caravan) to be yours. Allah, however, willed the Truth to triumph in accordance with His Words and to cut off the remnants of the unbelievers.

8:8 So that He may cause the Truth to triumph and nullify falsehood, even though the wicked sinner dislike it.


Moududi quotes a different translation of 8:5 where it’s all about the spoils:

8:5 (Now with regard to the spoils the same situation exists as when) your Lord brought you forth from your home in a righteous cause while a party among the believers were much averse to it.


To avoid His Messenger getting cold feet the night before the battle, in a dream Allah made the enemy appear to be much fewer and repeated the same illusion the next day to a fully awake Prophet.

8:43 [Remember] when Allah showed them to you [O Muhammad] in your sleep as few. Had He showed them as many, you would have lost heart and you would have differed over the matter. But Allah saved you. He knows what is hidden in the hearts.

8:44 And [remember] when He showed them to you, as you met, few in your eyes, and made you few in their eyes; so that Allah might bring about a matter already decreed. And unto Allah shall all matters return.

If only the Prophet was subjected to the illusion of a small Meccan army, then, the following verse, where the believers saw themselves outnumbered two to one, makes sense:

3:13 There surely was a sign for you in the two armies that confronted each other (at the Battle of Badr); the one side fighting for the cause of Allah, and the other consisting of unbelievers. The believers saw them with their very eyes to be twice their actual number. God will strengthen with His Might whomever He pleases. Surely, there is in this a lesson for those who are possessed of vision.


The Mohsin Khan translation disputes Allah’s estimate, making it 3 to 1, and the sign was for the Jews.

3:13 There has already been a sign for you (O Jews) in the two armies that met (in combat i.e. the Battle of Badr). One was fighting in the Cause of Allah, and as for the other, (they) were disbelievers. They (the believers) saw them (the disbelievers) with their own eyes twice their number (although they were thrice their number). And Allah supports with His Victory whom He wills. Verily, in this is a lesson for those who understand.


No matter their relative strength, the believers held the high ground. They would have abandoned that strategic position and attacked the caravan (“cavalcade” in revelation 8:42), with disastrous result, had Allah not already decided how the battle would unfold and why.

8:42 While you were on the nearer side [of the valley] and they were on the farther side, with the cavalcade beneath you. Had you made an appointment, you would surely have failed to keep the appointment. But [this happened ] so that Allah might bring about a matter already decreed, and that those who were to perish would perish after a clear proof [had been given], and those who were to survive would survive after a clear proof [had been given]. And surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

The Muslim defeated the Meccans at the famous battle of Badr with Allah taking credit for the victory. And why shouldn't He. After all, He did send an army of invisible angels to help the Muslims defeat their enemy, and made it possible for the believers to fall asleep, in an uncharacteristic rain, the night before the battle.

8:9 And when you called upon your Lord for help, He answered you: “I will re-enforced you with a thousand angels following one another.”

8:10 Allah did this only as good tidings and that your hearts might be assured thereby. Victory comes only from Allah; Allah is indeed Mighty and Wise.

8:11 [Remember] when He allowed slumber to overcome you as an assurance from Him, and sent you water down from heaven so as to purify you, relieve you of the Devil’s temptation, fortify your hearts and steady your feet therewith.

Words of encouragement for His angels:

8:12 And when your Lord revealed to the angels: “I am with you; so support those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve; so strike upon the necks and strike every fingertip of theirs.”

8:13 That is because they opposed Allah and His Messenger; and he who opposes Allah and His Messenger [will find] Allah’s Punishment very severe.

 8:14 This is how it will be; so taste it; the torture of the Fire is awaiting the unbelievers.

Words of encouragement for the believers:

8:15 O believers, if you meet the unbelievers on the march, do not turn your backs upon them.

8:16 Whoever turns his back on that day, unless preparing to resume fighting, or joining another group, incurs Allah’s Wrath and his refuge is Hell; and what an evil fate!

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8:45 O believers, if you encounter an enemy host, stand fast and remember Allah frequently, that perchance you may prosper.

8:46 And obey Allah and His Messenger and do not quarrel among yourselves lest you lose heart and your strength dissipates. And stand fast, for Allah is on the side of those who stand fast.

8:47 And do not be like those who went out of their homes boastfully showing off in front of the people , while they barred others from the Path of Allah. Allah is fully aware of what they do.


“[8:47] alludes to the army of the disbelieving Quraysh, which, when it proceeded on a military expedition against the Muslims, was accompanied by singing and dancing minstrels.” Moududi


Words of encouragement from Satan for the unbelievers. The Devil fled the battlefield before any actual engagement, which probably demoralized the opponents of the believers somewhat.

8:48 And the Devil made their [foul] deeds look fair to them saying: “No man shall overcome you today; and I am indeed by your side.” But when the two hosts sighed each other, he turned on his heels saying: “I am quit of you; I see what you do not see; I fear Allah, and Allah is stern in retribution.”

What about the hypocrites?

8:49 And the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness said: “Their religion has misled those people (the Muslims).” But he who trusts in Allah will find Allah is Mighty and Wise.

Strong winds lashed the battlefield. One wind blast, the Prophet told his fighters, was one thousand angels led by the archangel Gabriel coming to their aid.


Gabriel was proud of the way his angels fought, and he may also have been the only mounted warrior at the battle of Badr.

Narrated Rifaa: (who was one of the Badr warriors)

Gabriel came to the Prophet and said, "How do you look upon the warriors of Badr among yourselves?"

The Prophet said, "As the best of the Muslims." or said a similar statement.

On that, Gabriel said, "And so are the Angels who participated in the Badr (battle)."

Bukhari 59.327

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet said on the day (of the battle) of Badr, "This is Gabriel holding the head of his horse and equipped with arms for the battle.

Bukhari 59.330


The next blast, he said, was another thousand angels led by the archangel Michael. A third was still another thousand angels led by the archangel Saraphel. Allah gives details of this re-enforcement from heaven, but not before reminding the faithful of the second encounter between the Muslims and the Meccans at the Battle of Uhud (March 19, 625).

3:123 Allah had already given you victory at Badr, at a time when you were still powerless; so fear Allah that perchance you might thankful!

3:124 When you were telling the believers: “Is it not enough that your Lord should reinforce you with three thousand angels sent down?”

Even with the assistance of three thousand angels, the Prophet’s men could not defeat the Meccans. Allah had to send another two thousand angels (unless these angels were held in reserve and the battle was won without their assistance), bringing the total number of winged combatants the Almighty committed to the Battle of Badr to five thousand.

3:125 Yes, if you forbear and fear Allah and the enemy attack you at once, Your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand marked angels.

3:126 Allah has not intended this except as good news to you and that your hearts might be reassured thereby. Victory comes only from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise!

The angels were not only there to fight, but also to carry the souls of the dead unbelievers to Hell.

8:50 And if you could only see when the angels carry off the unbelievers, striking their faces and their rears [saying]: “Taste the punishment of the Fire.”

8:51 That is on account of what you have done, and Allah is not unjust to His servants.

The total number of enemy dead at the Battle of Badr was 70, and, as Allah reminds the believers, it was not they who slew them.

8:17 It was not you (those addressed are the Muslims) who slew them, but Allah; and when you (Muhammad) threw (the pebbles or a handful of dust at the enemy in retaliation) it was actually Allah who threw; so that He might generously reward the believers. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

Narrated Al-Bara bin Azib:

On the day of Uhud the Prophet appointed Abdullah bin Jubair as chief of the archers, and seventy among us were injured and martyred. On the day (of the battle) of Badr, the Prophet and his companions had inflicted 140 casualties on the pagans, 70 were taken prisoners, and 70 were killed.

Bukhari 56.322

Why Allah threw the dust:

8:18 That was done, so that Allah might foil the machinations of the unbelievers.

Allah is on the side of the believers, even if it is not obvious until the very last statement in the following revelation.

8:19 If you seek victory, the victory has been granted you; and if you desist, it will be better for you; but if you come back, We will come back (We will again support the believers) and your forces will avail you nothing, however numerous they are. Allah is on the side of the believers.

The Prophet had one of his most vocal critics, the poet al-Nadr whom he spotted after the battle, killed on the spot, but he did show mercy to sixty or more other prisoners. He ignored demands that each be killed by a relative to avoid a blood feud and a demand that they be burnt alive, and ordered that they be ransomed. He was exercising Allah’s prerogative.

3:127 That He may cut off a group of the unbelievers or humiliate them, so that they may turn away completely baffled.

3:128 It is no business of yours whether Allah forgives them or punishes them; for they are indeed evil-doers!

3:129 And to Allah belongs what is in the heavens and on earth; He forgives whom He pleases and punishes whom He pleases. Allah is All-Forgiving and Merciful.

What Pharaoh’s people and the dead unbelievers at Badr had in common:

8:52 Just like the wont of Pharaoh’s people and those who preceded them; they disbelieved in their Lord’s Revelations; so Allah punished them for their sins. Allah is Strong and Stern in retribution.

8:53 That is because Allah never changes a favour He confers on a people unless they change what is in their hearts, and because Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

8:54 Just like the wont of Pharaoh’s people and those who preceded them; they denied Allah’s revelations, so We destroyed them because of their sins and We drowned Pharaoh’s people. They were all wrongdoers.

None of the victorious warriors of the battle of Badr survived the upheaval that followed the assassination of the third Caliph.

Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab:

When the first civil strife (in Islam) took place because of the murder of Uthman, it left none of the Badr warriors alive.

When the second civil strife, that is the battle of Al-Harra, took place, it left none of the Hudaibiya treaty companions alive.

Then the third civil strife took place and it did not subside till it had exhausted all the strength of the people.

Bukhari 59.358

Sparrows at War

The Koran mentions another A.D. confrontation in which Allah spectacularly interfered with the outcome. In this battle, He did not send angels to defeat His enemies but sparrows.

The following story about birds defeating an army on elephants is from Virgil Gheorghiu’s La vie de Mahomet, with supporting verses from the Koran.

The inhabitants of the Arab Peninsula knew that Mecca was special to Allah even before the Prophet made it official.

It is reported in the Traditions that in 570, the year of Muhammad’s birth, Abraha, the Christian ruler of the principality of Saba' in Yemen (then part of the Abyssinian Empire) marched on Mecca after the Meccans allegedly tried to burn down a church he had built, and which the Meccans feared would attract more converts to Christianity.

On the approach to Mecca the elephant Abraha was ridding stopped, knelt on the ground and refused to go any further.

Suddenly, out of the sky appeared squadron after squadron of sparrows armed with tiny stones with which they bombed the army of Abraha, killing all the estimated 60,000 men, their elephants, camels and horses.

As a final example of how pre-Islamic mythology made its way into the Koran, one of the last surahs is dedicated to this unlikely encounter of which history has no record.

THE ELEPHANT

105 Al-Fîl

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

105:1 Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant?

105:2 Did he not turn their cunning into perdition?

105:3 And send upon them swarms of birds;

105:4 Hurling upon them stones of clay;

105:5 And so He reduced them to munched blades of grass.

Spoils of Badr

Dead pagans down the well and booty for the believers. What a God!

Narrated Ibn Shihab:

These were the battles of Allah's Apostle (which he fought), and while mentioning (the Badr battle) he said, while the corpses of the pagans were being thrown into the well, Allah's Apostle said (to them), "Have you found what your Lord promised true?"

Abdullah said, "Some of the Prophet's companions said, "O Allah's Apostle! You are addressing dead people.'"

Allah's Apostle replied, "You do not hear what I am saying, better than they."

The total number of Muslim fighters from Quraish who fought in the battle of Badr and were given their share of the booty, were 81 men."

Az-Zubair said, "When their shares were distributed, their number was 101 men. But Allah knows it better."

Bukhari 59.360

Christianity was well established on the Arabian Peninsula thanks, in part, to the pioneering efforts of one of the original apostles, Bartholomew.

After the battle there are the spoils and a discussion ensues as to who gets what. Those who are familiar with Jesus’ response in the Gospel of Luke to the question posed by the scribes “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" will see a similarity in the Prophet's response to the question of “Who gets what?” The big difference being that God’s Messenger as Allah’s Overseer on earth makes is to both Allah’s and Caesar’s share.

THE SPOILS

8 Al-Anfâl

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

8:1 They ask you about the spoils (taken by the Muslims after the Battle of Badr), say: “The spoils belong to Allah and to the Messenger. So fear Allah and settle your differences.” Obey Allah and His Messenger if you are true believers.

But there is of course more to being a believer than simply being entitled to an unbeliever's possessions, as Allah quickly reminds those whose mind is focused on the booty.

8:2 The true believers are whose hearts, upon the mention of Allah, quiver with fear; and when His Revelations are recited to them, they strengthen their faith. They put their trust in their Lord.

8:3 Those who perform the prayer, and spend of what We provided for them.

8:4 Those are in truth the believers; they shall enjoy with their Lord a high station and receive forgiveness and a generous provision.

Allah in a subsequent revelation opts for a more even-handed distribution of the booty.

8:41 And know that whatever booty you take, the fifth thereof is for Allah, the Messenger, the near of kin, the orphan and the wayfarer, if you really believe in Allah and in what We revealed to our Servant on the day of decision (the Battle of Badr), the day when the two hosts met. Allah has power over everything.

This did not, however, stop the grumbling about how the alms were distributed.

9:58 And some of them disparage your handling of the alms. If they are given part of it they are satisfied, but if they are not given any, they turn away angrily.

9:59 And would that they were satisfied with what Allah and His Messenger gave them and said: “Allah suffices us; Allah will give us of His Bounty, as will His Messenger. We turn humbly to Him.”

The dissatisfaction may have had to do with the wealth which the Prophet spent in “Allah’s Way” which as Allah explains in revelation 9:60 is a legitimate charitable expense. It costs a lot of money to maintain an army fighting in Allah’s Path.

9:60 The alms are for the poor, the needy, their collectors and those whose hearts are bound together, as well as for the freeing of slaves, [repaying] the debtors, spending in Allah’s Path, and for the wayfarer. Thus Allah commands. Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.


"those whose hearts are bound together"

Those whose hearts are to be won over.

A portion of Zakat Funds may also be given to win over to Islam those who might be engaged in anti-Islamic activities or to those in the camp of the unbelievers who might be brought to help the Muslims or to those newly converted Muslims, who might be inclined to revert to kufr if no monetary help was extended to them.

It is permissible to award pensions to them or give them lump sums of money to make them helpers of Islam or submissive to it or at least to render them into harmless enemies.

Moududi