Chapter 3: The Battle of Uhud

 Part I: In the Time of the Prophet (SAWS)

 

Page: 4

Uhud is a massive feature lying four miles north of Madinah (the reference point in Madinah being the Prophet's Mosque) and rising to a height of about 1,000 feet above the level of the plain. The entire feature is 5 miles long. In the western part of Uhud, a large spur descends steeply to the ground, and to the right of this spur, as seen from the direction of Madinah, a valley rises gently and goes up and away as it narrows at a defile about 1,000 yards from the foot of the spur. Beyond this defile it shrinks into nothingness as it meets the main wall of the ridge. At the mouth of this valley, at the foot of this spur, the Prophet placed his army. The valley rose behind him.

He organised the Muslims as a compact formation with a front of 1,000 yards. He placed his right wing at the foot of the spur and his left wing at the foot of a low hill, about 40 feet high and 500 feet long, called Ainain. The Muslim right was safe, but their left could be turned from beyond Ainain; so, to meet this danger, the Prophet placed 50 archers on Ainain, from which they could command the approaches along which the Quraish could manoeuvre into the Muslim rear. These archers, under the command of Abdullah bin Jubair, were given instructions by the Prophet as follows; "Use your arrows against the enemy cavalry. Keep the cavalry off our backs. As long as you hold your position, our rear is safe. On no account must you leave this position. If you see us winning, do not join us; if you see us losing, do not come to help us." 1 The orders to this group of archers were very definite. Since Ainain was an important tactical feature and commanded the area immediately around it, it was imperative to ensure that it did not fall into the hands of the Quraish.

Behind the Muslims stood 14 women whose task it was to give water to the thirsty, to carry the wounded out of battle and to dress their wounds. Among these women was Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet and wife of Ali The Prophet himself took up his position with the left wing of his army.

The Muslim dispositions were intended to lead to a frontal positional battle and were superbly conceived. They gave the Muslims the benefit of fully exploiting their own sources of strength-courage and fighting skill. They also saved them from the dangers posed by the Quraish strength in numbers and in cavalry-the mobile manoeuvre arm which the Muslims lacked. It would have suited Abu Sufyan to fight an open battle in which he could manoeuvre against the Muslim flanks and rear with his cavalry and bring his maximum strength to bear against them. But the Prophet neutralised Abu Sufyan's advantages, and forced him to fight on a restricted front where his superior strength and his cavalry would be of limited value. It is also worth noting that the Muslims were actually facing Madinah and had their backs to Mount Uhud; the road to Madinah was open to the Quraish.

Now the Quraish moved up. They established a battle camp a mile south of the spur, and from here Abu Sufyan led his army forward and formed it in battle array facing the Muslims. He organised it into a main body of infantry in the centre with two mobile wings. On the right was Khalid and on the left Ikrimah, each with a cavalry squadron 100 strong. Amr bin Al Aas was appointed in over-all charge of the cavalry, but his task was mainly that of co-ordination. Abu Sufyan placed 100 archers ahead of his front rank for the initial engagement. The Quraish banner was carried by Talha bin Abi Talha, one of the survivors of Badr. Thus the Quraish deployed with their backs to Madinah, facing the Muslims and facing Mount Uhud. In fact they stood between the Muslim army and its base at Madinah. (For the dispositions of the two armies see Map 1).

Just behind the Quraish main body stood their women. Before battle was joined, these women, led by Hind, marched back and forth in front of the Quraish, reminding them of those who had fallen at Badr. Thereafter, just before the women withdrew to their position in the rear of the army, the clear, strong voice of Hind rose as she sang:


O you sons of Abduddar!
Defenders of our homes!
We are the daughters of the night;
We move among the cushions.
If you advance we will embrace you.
If you retreat we will forsake you
With loveless separation.
2

1. Ibn Hisham: Vol. 2, pp. 65-66; Waqidi: Maghazi, p. 175.
2. Ibn Hisham: Vol. 2, p. 68. Waqidi: Maghazi, p. 176.

   

   
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