Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 121 – 123
According to the majority of scholars, these ayaat are describing the battle of Uhud, as Ibn `Abbas, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi and others said. The battle of Uhud occurred on a Saturday, in the month of Shawwal in the third year of Hijrah. `Ikrimah said that Uhud occurred in the middle of the month of Shawwal, and Allah knows best.
In the previous ayaat, we learned that no power could harm Muslims if they displayed sabr [patience] and Taqwa of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala now gives an account of the Battle of Uhud to teach us what happens when we fail to abide by the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and do not display sabr and Taqwa.
The Reason Behind the Battle of Uhud
The idolaters suffered many casualties among their noble men at the battle of Badr. The caravan that Abu Sufyan (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) led (before Badr) returned safely to Makkah, prompting the remaining Makkan leaders and the children of those who were killed at Badr to demand from Abu Sufyan to spend this money on fighting Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
They spent the money from the caravan on warfare expenses and mobilized their forces including the Ahabish tribes (tribes living around the city). They gathered 3,000 soldiers and marched until they camped near Uhud facing Madina.
The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam led the Friday prayer and when he finished with it, he performed the funeral prayer for a man from Bani An-Najjar called Malik bin `Amr. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then asked the Muslims for advice, if they should march to meet the disbelievers, or fortify themselves in Madina. ‘Abdullah bin Ubayy (the chief hypocrite) advised that they should remain in Madina saying that if the disbelievers lay siege to Madina, the siege would be greatly disadvantageous to them. He added that if they decide to attack Madina, its men would face off with them, while women and children could throw rocks at them from above their heads; and if they decide to return to Makkah, they would return with failure. However, some Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum who did not attend the battle of Badr advised that the Muslims should go out to Uhud to meet the disbelievers.
The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam went to his home, put on his shield and came out. The Companions were weary then and said to each other, “Did we compel the Messenger of Allah to go out?” They said, “O Messenger of Allah! If you wish, we will remain in Madina.” The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
مَا يَنْبَغِي لِنَبِيَ إِذَا لَبِسَ لَأْمَتَهُ أَنْ يَرْجِعَ حَتَّى يَحْكُمَ اللهُ لَه
“It is not for a Prophet to wear his shield for war then lay down his arms before Allah decides in his favor.”
The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam marched with a thousand of his Companions. When they reached the Shawt area, `Abdullah bin Ubayy went back to Madina with a third of the army, claiming he was angry the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not listen to his advice. He and his supporters said, “If we knew that you would fight today, we would have accompanied you. However, we do not think that you will fight today.” The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam marched until he reached the hillside in the area of Uhud, where they camped in the valley with Mount Uhud behind them. The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
لَا يُقَاتِلَنَّ أَحَدٌ حَتَّى نَأْمُرَهُ بِالْقِتَال
“No one starts fighting until I issue the command to fight.”
The Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prepared his forces for battle, and his army was 700 men. He appointed ‘Abdullah bin Jubayr, from Bani `Amr bin `Awf, to lead the archers who were 50 men. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to them,
انْضَحُوا الْخَيْلَ عَنَّا، وَلَا نُؤْتَيَنَّ مِنْ قِبَلِكُمْ، وَالْزَمُوا مَكَانَكُمْ، إِنْ كَانَتِ النَّوْبَةُ لَنَا أَوْ عَلَيْنَا، وَإِنْ رَأَيْتُمُونَا تَخْطَفُنَا الطَّيْرُ فَلَا تَبْرَحُوا مَكَانَكُم
“Keep the horsemen away from us, and be aware that we might be attacked from your direction. If victory was for or against us, remain in your positions. And even if you see us being picked up by birds, do not abandon your positions.”
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wore two protective shields and gave the flag to Mus’ab bin `Umair radhiAllahu ‘anhu of Bani `Abd Ad-Dar. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also allowed some young men to participate in fighting, but not others, whom he allowed to participate in the battle of Al-Khandaq two years later. The Quraysh mobilized their forces of 3,000 men with 200 horsemen on each flank. They appointed Khalid bin Al-Waleed to lead the right side of the horsemen and ‘Ikrimah Ibn Abi Jahl on the left side. They also gave their grand flag to the tribe of Bani `Abd Ad-Dar.
Allah said in the ayah here,
وَإِذْ غَدَوْتَ مِنْ أَهْلِكَ تُبَوِّئُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ مَقَاعِدَ لِلْقِتَالِ ۗ
“And [remember] when you left your family in the morning to post the believers at their stations for the battle [of Uhud].”
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani explains these ayaat in his Tafseer Ma’arif-ul-Qur’an in a beautiful way. He writes this is an example of the miraculous style of the Qur’an especially when it reports events. It does not describe any event with complete details. Details are given only when they carry with them implied points of guidance.
For instance, the ayah gives us the time of the day by using the word ghadawta [غَدَوْتَ] from the root ghayn-dal-wau and it means “early morning.” So we learn that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam left for the battlefield early in the morning.
What was he doing at that time?
The word min ahlika [مِنْ أَهْلِكَ] indicates that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was with his family at this time. When the time came to leave, he left, leaving his family behind him even though this attack was aimed at Madina.
Lesson: We learn that when the command of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala comes then the comfort of our homes and the love of our family should not stop us from obeying it.
Notice that the details of what happened between the period of leaving the house and reaching the war front are not mentioned. Instead, what is described is what happens when he reaches the battlefield. He designates the Muslim army to various positions, dividing them to the left and right sides and placing them wherever he felt right.
وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ –
“…and Allah is Hearing and Knowing.”
He hears what you say and knows what you conceal in your hearts. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said next,
إِذْ هَمَّت طَّائِفَتَانِ مِنكُمْ أَن تَفْشَلَا وَاللَّهُ وَلِيُّهُمَا ۗ
“When two parties among you were about to lose courage, but Allah was their ally…”
When some of the believers saw the hypocrites leave the battlefield, they began to lose heart. But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala strengthened their hearts. It indicates that their emaan was not weak it was a temporary fear that had entered their hearts upon seeing themselves less in number.
Al-Bukhari recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah said that this ayah was revealed about them – the two Muslim tribes of Bani Harithah and Bani Salamah. “I or (we) would not be pleased if it was not revealed because Allah said in it, ‘Allah was their ally.’”
Muslim recorded this hadeeth from Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“…and upon Allah the believers should rely.”
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes here it has been made clear that the Muslims should not rely on their superiority in men and material goods. Of course, these things are important but one must place their total trust in Allah and Allah alone. The apprehension of weakness that overtook Banu Harithah and Banu Salamah was caused by this material lack of strength. Therefore, tawakkul was suggested as the treatment of all sorts of apprehensions.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds the believers of an incident when they were less in number but strong in faith and Taqwa. They made an effort to fight the enemy with their limited means and relied upon Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for success. In the end, they were the ones who were victorious. The reference is to the Battle of Badr.
وَلَقَدْ نَصَرَكُمُ اللَّهُ بِبَدْرٍ وَأَنتُمْ أَذِلَّةٌ ۖ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“And already had Allah given you victory at [the battle of] Badr while you were few in number. Then fear Allah; perhaps you will be grateful.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us that is not material strength that makes one victorious but the Taqwa of Allah.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us such Taqwa that prevents us from falling into any kind of sin or immorality and at the same time encourages us to seek nearness to Him, ameen.
We learn that we should start our tasks early in the morning. We should not wait for the evening to approach till we realize all that we had to do. Learn to organize and plan your day.
We learn that when a person decides a matter then he should remain firm on it and rely on Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. One should not be shaky in his decisions.
We learn that when the command of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala comes then the comfort of our homes and the love of our family should not stop us from obeying it.
We notice that when the hypocrites are leaving the battleground, they are allowed to go. But when the true believers temporarily lose their courage, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala strengthens their hearts. This is the difference between a hypocrite and a true believer. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala supports His true servants.
In the middle of talking about the defeat of the Battle of Uhud, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala mentions the victory of Battle of Badr. It teaches us that when we are going through a trying period in our life, we should recall the days when we enjoyed His blessings. Nothing remains forever. Tests will be over, therefore hold on to patience and Allah-consciousness.