Battle of Uhud

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The battle of Uhud was the second great battle in the military career of the prophet Muhammad according to the sira of the prophet. Unlike its predecessor, the Battle of Badr, it resulted in a decisive defeat for Muhammad and his ummah at the hands of the pagan Meccans. Like the battle of Badr, it was the circumstance for the revelation of many verses from the Hadith. Unlike the battle of Badr, it was a defensive battle, with the pagan Quraysh of Mecca coming to Medina to stomp out his movement for once and for all. The result of the battle would embolden the Meccans, although they would not properly exploit it, and the hypocrites in Muhammad's own ranks. Although the Muslims suffered many casualties, the Meccans would not drive their victory to a complete triumph over the Muslim movement; rather, from the sira, it appears that the Arabs of Meccan retired once the Arab sense of vengeance for the slain of Badr had been fulfilled. Although a setback for Muhammad, the battle would ultimately not stop his meteoric rise to be the undisputed master of all of Arabia.


The Battle of Badr had left the Meccans furious and with a taste for vengeance. Muhammad's continued raids on the Meccan caravans also provided an economic rationale for action. Rather than awaiting Muhammad's next raid on their caravans the Meccans resolved themselves to crush Muhammad and his religion in their base of operations, Medina, for once and for all time.

Order of battle

The Meccans under Abu Sufyan marshalled an army of over 3000 men, more than 3 times their numbers at Badr. Muhammad was able to call on a force of about 1000 men, this time including many more archers.

Lead up to the Battle

Initially the prophet had wanted to wait for the mushrikuun to come to him in the city and fight there. Ignoring the advice of his companions (and, he could not know, the advice of Chinese master strategist Sun Tzu as well) he abandoned this plan, though, to face the Meccans north of the city at Mount Uhud where they were grazing their animals. The Meccans were thus able to prepare and face Muhammad and his army in a defensive stance.


The Muslims charged forward and intially had success against their numerically superior foe. Seeing the Meccans wavering, though, the archers of the Muslims rushed forward to the Meccan camp, hoping to get their share of the spoil. The commander of the Meccan cavalry though, Khalid ibn Walid (who would become known as the "sword of god" after converting to Islam for his spectacular victories over the Byzantines at Yarmouk and Damascus) saw that the desertion by the archers of their posts left a hole in the Muslim lines. He wheeled his cavalry around the left flank of the Muslim front and poured in through the whole left in their lines by the archers. Attacked by cavalry in their rear, the Muslims panicked and fled, leading to a route and general slaughter of the Muslims. Muhammad himself was struck in the mouth by a sword and many of the Muslims believed that he had been killed, destroying what morale they had left.


Victorious, the Meccans turned to the vanquish. Hind, the wife of Meccan commander 'Utbah who had been slain at Badr, reportedly had the liver of his killer, the prophet's uncle Hamzah, brought to her. She bit a piece of it off, chewed, swallowed, and threw the rest away. The other Muslims found wounded were slaughtered. The Meccans looked in vain for the body of Muhammad but did not find it. Their sense of vengeance apparently satiated, they did not press their victory on to Medina but rather turned back to Mecca.


In the aftermath of the battle verse 126 of surah 16 "The Bee" was revealed enjoining the believers to patience in the face of adversity.