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Article appeared Friday, April 1st, 2011 in The News Today, Bangladesh

The Revelation (173) yousuf mahbubul Islam, PhD

The Battle of Uhud (625 AD) left behind many lessons {1, 2} for those who profess belief in the
Creator. Do any of these lessons carry meaning for the activities of Muslims of today? To help
analyze and understand the events the battle may be broken down into three stages, pre-battle,
during battle and post-battle. At each stage two interests were at play, personal interests
verses the interest of the Prophet who represented the Creator. To hide personal interests
some intentionally created confusion in the ranks of the believers. Verses 121 to 175 in the
Qur’an show how the Creator made plain the hypocrisy of belief and the preference of personal

Pre-battle: At the time, Abdullāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl {2} was in the process of being considered
for a position of leadership by his followers. He was therefore very pleased when, among
others, the Prophet sought his ideas to plan a strategy for the war. Unfortunately, his ideas were
not followed when the plans were finalized. He could not accept this. Putting his personal
interests above those of the Prophet he deserted the army with his 300 followers just before the
battle. This caused a lot of confusion. When Abdullah bin Haram tried to stop them and
convince them to come back and fight, they claimed, "If we had known you would really fight we
would have not turned back" {1} In the subsequent Revelation, Allah reports the incident:
“…so that He may mark out the true believers and mark out the hypocrites. When these
were told, ‘Come, fight in God’s cause’, or ‘Defend yourselves’, they answered, ‘Had we
known there would be a fight, we would certainly have followed you.’…” [3.166 – 3.167]

And brings out the proof of disbelief and hypocrisy in their words:
“…On that day they were nearer unbelief than faith, uttering with their mouths
something different to what was in their hearts, but God knew full well all that they tried
to conceal.”” [3.167]

During the battle: There were some who during the battle ran after booty and some who left
their battle positions to do so. This was against the strict instructions of the Prophet. At this
point, the battle turned in favor of the enemy, however, when these believers repented, they
were forgiven:
“…and fell to disputing about the (Prophet’s) order and disobeyed it after He (Allah)
brought you in sight (of the booty) which you covet. Among you are some that hanker
after this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then did He divert you from your
foes in order to test you but He forgave you:..” [3.152]

Post-battle: During the battle, about 70 from among the believers were martyred. To prove that
desertion was wise and beneficial Abdullah ibn Ubayy tried to show that following the Prophet
would have proved disastrous. Again, Allah reports the incident:
“Such were they who having themselves stayed behind, said of their brothers: ‘If only
they had listened to us, they would not have been slain...’” [3.168]

As time of death is totally in the Hands of the Creator, rest of the Verse challenges:
“…Say to them: ‘Ward off death from yourselves, then, if what you say be true.’” [3.168]

As Sayyid Qutb points out in page 241 his commentary {2}, “Death affects everyone: the fighter
in the battlefield as well as the deserter, the brave man and the coward. It can neither be
prevented by taking precautions, nor delayed by cowardice or the evasion of risk.” The choice is
therefore in how one chooses to die, not in when. To help us understand hypocrisy in our day-
to-day activities, the American poet, essayist and journalist, Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) said,
“Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give, I give myself.” {3}

Allah then clarifies the real status of those who died in the battle and also those who returned
safely from the battle.

3.170 “They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: and with regard to those left
behind who have not yet joined them (in their bliss) the (martyrs) glory in the fact
that on them is no fear nor have they (cause to) grieve.”

3.171 “They glory in the Grace and the Bounty from Allah and in the fact that
Allah suffers not the reward of the faithful to be lost (in the least).”
Finally, Allah clearly identifies the real believers from those who were left. These were those

3.172 “Of those who answered the call of Allah and the Apostle even after being
wounded are those who do right and refrain from wrong have a great reward.”
As explained by Qutb {2} (page 245) the Prophet called upon those who had fought to again
turn out for battle duty with him the following day. They were wounded and exhausted; they had
just barely escaped death. They were still living the horrors of the battle and the humiliation of
defeat. They had lost some of their finest and dearest, were weaker because of their wounds,
and also less in number. Nevertheless the Prophet called them up, and called them in person.
They responded to the Prophet’s call, which was, in essence, a call by God, as the verse makes
absolutely clear. Their response was immediate, positive and favorable, despite their misfortune
and wounds. They remained strong while their victorious enemies were weak. It was an
experience which was certain to be followed by victory once they had shaken off their weakness
and failure, and responded to the call issued to them by God and His messenger. What was
the degree of their faith?

3.173 “Men said to them: "A great army is gathering against you, so be afraid":
but the warning (only) increased their faith. They said: "For us Allah is sufficient
and He is the Best Disposer of affairs."”

3.174 “And they returned with Grace and Bounty from Allah: no harm ever
touched them; for they followed the good pleasure of Allah: and Allah is the Lord
of bounties unbounded.”

3.175 “It is only the Evil One (Satan) that suggests to you to fear his votaries: be
you not afraid of them but fear Me if (indeed) you have faith.”
{2} Qutb, S. (1999). In the Shade of Qur’an. translated by M.A. Salahi and A.; A. Shamis, Vol. II
Markfield, Leicester, and Nairobi, Kenya: The Islamic Foundation 1999.