The Civil War Which Started It All
Battle of Uhud
The Prophet appointed Abdullah bin Jubair as the commander of the infantry men (archers) who were fifty on the day (of the battle) of Uhud. He instructed them, "Stick to your place, and don't leave it even if you see birds snatching us, till I send for you; and if you see that we have defeated the infidels and made them flee, even then you should not leave your place till I send for you."
Then the infidels were defeated.
By Allah, I saw the women fleeing lifting up their clothes revealing their leg-bangles and their legs. So, the companions of Abdullah bin Jubair said, "The booty! O people, the booty! Your companions have become victorious, what are you waiting for now?"
Abdullah bin Jubair said, "Have you forgotten what Allah's Apostle said to you?"
They replied, "By Allah! We will go to the people (i.e. the enemy) and collect our share from the war booty." But when they went to them, they were forced to turn back defeated ...
The Muslims were well on their way to winning this battle until the Muslim archers left the battle early, thinking it was already won, to be the first to plunder the undefended Meccan camp. The Meccan cavalry counterattacked, seriously wounding the Prophet and routing the Muslim forces.
Had the Meccans pressed on, they would have completely annihilated the believers. Revelations 3:121-122 are about this near-disaster at Uhud which Allah takes credit for averting by His moral support of the two battalions commanded by His Messenger.
3:121 [And remember] when you (Muhammad) went at daybreak, away from your family, in order to lead the believers to their battle stations (at the Battle of Uhud); Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing!
3:122 Two of your battalions were about to lose heart, and Allah was their Protector. In Allah let the believers put their trust!
The battalions “belonged to Banu Salamah and Banu Harithah who formed the two wings of the Muslim army which was led by the Prophet” Fakhry
The lure of the booty overwhelmed the need to keep on killing. How the near-disaster unfolded and what happened next, in Allah’s own words.
3:152 Allah fulfilled His Promise to you when, by His Leave, you went on killing them; until you lost heart and dissented about the affair and disobeyed (the Muslims were victorious until the archers disobeyed the Prophet's orders), after He had shown you what you cherished. Some of you desired this world (left their position to get a share of the booty), others the Hereafter. Then, He turned you away from them (the Qurashite foes of the Muslims) in order to test you, and He has forgiven you. Allah is Gracious to the believers!
Even with the departure of the archers, the Muslims might still have been able to withstand the renewed assault of the Meccans if someone by the name of Suraqah had not shouted that the Prophet, who had been wounded in the encounter, was dead, causing consternation in the believers’ ranks and prompting many to flee in disarray in what became a rout.
3:153 [Remember] how you fled and paid heed to no one, while the Messenger was calling you from the rear. Thus He rewarded you with grief upon grief, lest you should not be sorry for what you missed or what befell you. Allah is Aware of what you do!
After the grief, whatever it was, Allah caused some who could still not be trusted in battle, “as a security” to fall asleep; and still others to express doubts about what they were fighting for and was it worth risking their lives, thereby providing Allah with an opportunity for rebuttal.
3:154 Then He sent down upon you, after the grief, as a security, slumber overcoming a group of you, whereas another group were only concerned about themselves, entertaining untrue thoughts about Allah, like the thoughts of the pagans. They say: “Do we have any part in the affair?” Say: “The whole affair is Allah’s.” They conceal in their hearts what they do not reveal to you. They say: “Had we had any part in the affair, we would not have been killed here.” Say: “Had you been in your homes, those who were destined to be killed would have sallied forth to the places where they would be slain; so that Allah might purify what is in your hearts. Allah knows well what is hidden in the breasts.”
Suraqah would deny, until his dying day, that he was the one who shouted that God’s Messenger had been killed. Allah did not blame him, He blamed the Devil.
3:155 Those of you, who fled on the day the two armies met, were made to slip by the Devil, on account of something they had done. However, Allah has forgiven them; Allah is indeed Forgiving and Merciful.
Don’t be like the unbelievers and think that you can escape death by playing it safe.
3:156 O believers, do not be like the unbelievers, who say about their brethren when they [die] while travelling abroad or fighting: “Had they stayed with us, they would not have died or been killed.” Allah wished to make that a cause of anguish in their hearts. It is Allah who causes men to live and die, and Allah has Knowledge of what you do!
Dying fighting for Allah is much better than whatever the unbelievers can amass in this life.
3:157 And were you to be killed or to die in the Way of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than what they amass.
A reminder that those who die fighting for Allah immediately join Him in Paradise – no life-in-the-grave waiting for Judgement day for these brave men.
3:158 And were you to die or to be killed, it is unto Allah that you will be gathered.
Praise for how His Messenger handled the aftermath of Uhud, and some advice.
3:159 It was by a mercy from Allah that you dealt leniently with them (the Muslim fighters who flinched in the midst of the battle); for had you been cruel and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you. So, pardon them, ask Allah’s Forgiveness for them and consult them in the conduct of affairs. Then, when you are resolved, trust in Allah; Allah indeed loves those who trust [in Him].
In Allah we trust!
3:160 If Allah supports you, no one will overcome you; but if He forsakes you, then who will be able to support you after Him? And in Allah let the believers put their trust!
And in the Prophet!
3:161 It does not benefit any Prophet to cheat [in handling the booty]; for whoever cheats will bring the fruit of his dishonesty with him on the Day of Resurrection. Then, each soul shall be paid in full for what it earned (its works); and they will not be wronged.
Who's to Blame for the Defeat
All believers were not equal at the Battle of Uhud, and the less equal appear to have been responsible for the rout. And while God’s Messenger may have forgiven those who fled the battlefield, and Allah shown a willingness to forgive and forget, His Mercy may not encompass all of those who fled the battle, even if He contrived the defeat for His own ends.
3:162 What, is he who follows Allah’s good Pleasure like him who brings upon himself God’s Wrath? Hell is his refuge, and what a wretched destiny!
3:163 They (the believers) have different grades in Allah’s Sight; and Allah has knowledge of what they do!
3:164 Allah has been gracious to the believers, sending them a Messenger from among themselves to recite to them His Revelations, to purify them and to teach them the Book and the Wisdom, though they had been in manifest error before that.
3:165 And when a misfortune befell you (in the Battle of Uhud) after you had inflicted twice as much (in the Battle of Badr), you said: “Whence is this?”; say: “It is from yourselves.” Surely Allah has power over everything!
3:166 And what befell you on the day the two armies met (in the Battle of Uhud) was by Allah’s Leave, that He might know the true believers;
If Allah knows what is in men’s hearts, was the defeat at Uhud really necessary.
3:167 And that He might know the hypocrites. When it was said to them: “Come, fight in the way of Allah or defend yourselves”, they replied: “If only we knew how to fight, we would have followed you.” On that day, they were closer to disbelief than to belief. They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts; and Allah knows best what they concealed!
We all have to die sometime.
3:168 Those who said to their brethren, while they themselves stayed at home! “Had they obeyed us they would not have been killed?” Say: “Then ward off death from yourselves, if you are truthful.”
Praise for the wounded and the brave.
3:169 And do not think those who have been killed in the Way of Allah as dead; they are rather living with their Lord, well provided for.
3:170 Rejoicing in what their Lord has given them of His bounty, and they rejoice for those who stayed behind and did not join them; knowing that they have nothing to fear and that they shall not grieve.
3:171 They rejoice in the Grace of Allah and His Favour, and that Allah will not withhold the reward of the faithful;
This reminder of the good life after death was probably Allah anticipating the next encounter with the unbelievers, encouraging those who may have been spooked by the death of their comrades-in-faith.
As to the wounded, in revelation, 3:172, their reward may be Paradise, but as likely, if they survive, it will be the booty (Bounty in revelation 3:174) which they will be able to parade, along with other returning holy warriors, before those Allah considers followers of the devil for not joining the fight in His Cause or for trying to scare the faithful.
3:172 Those who responded to Allah’s Call and the Messenger’s after they had incurred many wounds. To those of them who do what is right and fear Allah, a great reward is in store.
3:173 Those to whom the people said: “The people have been arrayed against you; so fear them.” But this increased their faith and so they said: “Allah is Sufficient for us. He is the Best Guardian!”
3:174 Thus they came back with a Grace and a Bounty from Allah. No harm touched them; and they complied with Allah’s good Pleasure. Allah’s Bounty is great!
3:175 That indeed is the Devil frightening his followers; but do not fear them and fear Me, if you are true believers!
Do not grieve for your relatives who died in the Battle of Uhud. If they died as unbelievers, not only are they not deserving of your tears, but the painful death they may have just suffered is just the beginning of an eternity of pain for not believing in Allah and His Messenger.
3:176 And do not let those who hasten to disbelieve make you grieve. They will certainly not cause Allah any harm. Allah wishes not to give them any share in the Hereafter, and a terrible punishment awaits them!
Understood is that if they don’t get a share, your share will be bigger. The unbelievers, by not believing in Allah, will not cause Him any harm and for this, they will not be welcomed in His abode, Paradise, which is understandable. What is less so, is why He wants to make them suffer for an eternity when He readily admits, again, in the very next revelation that their disbelief is innocuous.
3:177 Those who trade belief for disbelief will not cause Allah any harm, and a painful punishment awaits them!
As part of the lessons from the Battle of Uhud, Allah breaks the familial ties that bound the tribes for countless generations; substituting religious ties in their place. Your co-religionist are now your family and only friends, and only they are deserving of God’s Mercy, and your tears. As for the relatives that survived Uhud:
3:178 Let the unbelievers not suppose that Our prolonging their days is better for them. We only prolong their days so that they may grow in sin, and a humbling punishment awaits them.
Returning to what the defeat at Uhud was very much about: “separating the vile from the decent”.
3:179 Allah will not leave the faithful in the state in which you are, until He separates the vile from the decent. Nor will Allah make known to you the unseen; but Allah chooses of His Messengers whomever He pleases. Believe then in Allah and His Messengers; and if you believe and fear Allah, you will have a great reward.
More words of encouragement for the fighting believers, after the near disaster at Uhud perhaps:
3:144 Muhammad is merely a Messenger, before whom many Messengers have come and gone. If then he dies or gets killed, you will turn on your heels? Should any man turn on his heels, he will not cause Allah any harm; and Allah will reward the thankful.
3:145 It is not given to any soul to die, except with Allah’s Leave, at a fixed time. He who desires the reward of this world, We will give him [part] of it, and he who desires the reward of the life to come, We will give him [part] of it; and We shall reward the thankful.
3:146 How many Prophets with whom large multitudes have fought; they were not daunted on account of what befell them in the Cause of Allah. They did not weaken or cringe; and Allah loves the steadfast!
3:147 Their only words were: “Lord, forgive us our sins and our excess in our affairs. Make firm our feet and grant us victory over the unbelieving people.”
3:148 Therefore Allah granted them the reward of this life and the excellent reward (Paradise) of the life to come, and Allah loves the beneficent.