The Battle of Badr – Part 8
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
The final issue to be dealt with on the plains of Badr was that of the prisoners of war. There were around 74 prisoners of war that the Muslims had captured, and when the battle had finished the prophet had to decide what to do with them.
But before any decision was made, the prophet first surveyed all of the prisoners and declared: ‘If Mut’im ibn Adi were alive right now, and he spoke to me to free all of these pieces of dirt, I would have freed them all for him.’ Now as we remember, Mut’im ibn Adi was the one who helped end the Boycott and also gave the prophet protection to stay in Mecca after he returned from Ta’if. Mut’im had recently died, but not as a Muslim. And yet here the prophet praised him like he praised no other man, and gave him unquestionable respect and honour. And this shows us something that should be very obvious: not every non-Muslim is the same. Some, like Mut’im, care for justice and are honourable people, and so we should treat them with respect and kindness. And some, like Abu Jahal, are intolerant and bitter enemies of Allah, and those are our real enemies. And it is important that we remember this.
Returning to the issue of the prisoners, the decision of what to do with them was a very difficult one – not long ago these very people had been trying to kill them. And so the prophet consulted his sahaba, and in particular his two viziers Abu Bakr and Umar (RA).
Abu Bakr pleaded, ‘O Rasulallah, they are our relatives, they are our blood, they are our kin. So show mercy to them, for the sake of brotherhood.’
However Umar said, ‘As for me, O Rasulallah, I think you should give Aqil ibn Abi Talib to Ali and he’ll cut his head off. And give me someone from the Banu Khattab and I’ll do the same, so we don’t leave any of them. They tried to kill us so we should do the same to them. Why should we send them back so that they can come and attack us another day?’ Aqil was Ali’s (RA) brother, and Umar was the son of Al-Khattab and so was also asking for one of his brothers. And so we see the sternness of Umar in this advice, that he was literally saying that he should be the one to kill his own brother.
On hearing these two polarising advices, the prophet declared, ‘Verily Allah makes some hearts so soft that they are softer than milk. And other he makes them so hard that they harder than stone. As for you, O Abu Bakr, you have a resemblance of Ibrahim and Isa (AS). When Ibrahim (AS) said, “If they follow me then they are of me, then if they disobey me then by Allah, You are the most forgiving, the most merciful.”
And Isa (AS) said, “If you punish them, then they are your servants. But if you forgive then you are most mighty, most wise.”
And Abu Bakr, you are like Nuh (AS) and you are like Musa (AS). Nuh (AS) when he said, “My lord, don’t leave a single house of disbelievers on Earth.”
And Musa (AS) said, “O Allah, make their hearts hard. Make sure they never have imaan until they see the punishment come down on them.”’ After he made this beautiful and wise comparison, the prophet finally agreed to the suggestion of Abu Bakr.
However the next day Umar found the prophet and Abu Bakr crying under a tree. And so he asked them, ‘What is causing you to cry, O messenger of Allah? For by Allah, if I understand then I will cry with you. And if I don’t understand I’ll force myself to cry just to be with you.’ And so the prophet recited to him the following verses of Surah Al-Anfal:
مَا كَانَ لِنَبِىٍّ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُۥٓ أَسْرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ يُثْخِنَ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِۚ تُرِيدُونَ عَرَضَ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَٱللَّهُ يُرِيدُ ٱلْءَاخِرَةَۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
It is not for a prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You look for the temporal goods of this world; but Allah looks to the Hereafter: And Allah is Exalted in might, Wise.
لَّوْلَا كِتَٰبٌ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ سَبَقَ لَمَسَّكُمْ فِيمَآ أَخَذْتُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
Had it not been for a previous ordainment from Allah, a severe penalty would have reached you therein.
So here essentially Allah told the prophet that it would have been better if he had taken the stricter option, and that had not Allah already ordained that this would happen then a punishment would have come down. So what was the reason that the execution route would have been better?
Forgiveness is only effective when it is done from a position of strength – The Muslims were not yet powerful, and so forgiveness now was neither effective nor beneficial. If you forgive but you are not capable of exacting your anger, then this is not an effective forgiveness. And this shows the pragmatism of Islam, that it doesn’t just always say, ‘turn the other cheek,’ but rather that sometimes justice and punishment need to be meted out.
Some of those who they sent back would come back to fight them – It is true that some of the prisoners actually converted to Islam, however many of them simply returned to Mecca just to fight them once again in later battles.
Execution would have demonstrated to the Arabs that the Muslims were more loyal to Allah than their own tribes – Remember the Quraish did not understand why the Muslims from Medina and the Muslims from Mecca would fight together, as it did not fit their system of tribalism. Even later in the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, when Suhayl ibn Amr came to negotiate with the prophet, he looked around at the Muslims and said, ‘O Muhammad, do you really think this motley crew will be able to unite and fight with you against the Quraish?’ because he did not understand why the Muslims would fight alongside one another when they were from different tribes. And in fact on hearing this, Abu Bakr – and this was very rare for him – got seriously angry and he actually hit Suhayl with the butt of his knife, before saying a very vulgar phrase which was extremely uncharacteristic of him. And so Umar’s suggestion had a lot of wisdom, as having brothers executing brothers would make a clear sign that the Muslims were about more than tribalism, but served and submitted to Allah first.
But the prophet now had to commit to his decision, and so almost all of the prisoners of war were spared – except for two. On their way back, a little while after the army had passed the well where the casualties of the Quraish had been buried, two prisoners from the captives were taken out and executed on a flat area of land. And these two were An-Nadr ibn Al-Harith and Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt.
An-Nadr ibn Al-Harith was called ‘Shaitaan amongst the shayateen of the Quraish’ by Ibn Ishaaq. He was one of the few members of the Quraish who had lived abroad before the coming of Islam, and he had lived in the ancient city of Hira in Persia. So he was one of those with an outside education, and so when the Quran was revealed he became its most sarcastic commentator. And he would hear the stories of the Quran and claim that they were ancient fables and that he could tell better ones, so much so that it is said that every mention in the Quran of ‘the people who said that it was just full of ancient legends’ was a reference to An-Nadr. And there are fewer greater injustices than the one who says he can reveal as Allah reveals. And yet An-Nadr did just that, and whenever the Quran was being recited in public he would come and tell the crowd to come and listen to his stories of the Persian kings instead.
As well as this, he – alongside Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt – would in the early days of Islam travel to Yathrib and ask the Jews living there for questions that they could try to ask the prophet, so that they could trick him and try to prove him false. And we already know of all the other abhorrent deeds that Uqbah did, such as trying to strangle the prophet while he was praying, dumping camel entrails on him while he was on sajood and spitting in his face. And because of the vileness of these two enemies of Islam, they were the only two executed after Badr.
And as Uqbah lived, so he died. When he was brought out to be executed he began to beg the prophet for mercy, and he asked, ‘Why me? Why me out of all of them?’
Ali, who was going to be the one to execute him, responded, ‘Because of your animosity to Allah and his messenger.’
Ali then brought out his sword, and when he did this Uqbah fell to his knees and began to lament, ‘O Muhammad who will take care of my children?’
But the prophet simply replied, ‘The fire.’ And Ali then brought down his sword, and Uqbah was no more.
Now what did the prophet mean by ‘the fire’? There are two interpretations; one is that the prophet was telling Uqbah not to think about his children since he now had bigger problems to deal with like the fire of Jahannam. And the other is that if his children followed in his footsteps then they would be meeting their father Uqbah in hell.
When the Muslim army eventually returned to Medina, the rest of the prisoners were first all taken to the masjid. And there the prophet distributed them amongst those who had captured them, and the prophet told the Muslims to look after the prisoners and house them with themselves, under their own roofs. As for the captured chieftains of the Quraish – in particular the most senior of all the captives, Suhayl ibn Amr – they were kept in the house of the prophet himself. Look at the humility of our prophet – how rare is it that a prisoner of war is taken care of personally by the ruler of the victors?
Soon after the prophet had returned to Medina and distributed the prisoners of war, an incident occurred regarding Sawda binti Zam’a (RA) – the wife of the prophet. Sawda was not at her house when the prophet returned from Badr, however when the news of the army’s arrival reached her she rushed back home as fast as possible and burst in. And there, tied up as a prisoner in the corner of the room was one of the most senior members of the Quraish, a man whom Sawda had been conditioned to respect from a very young age – Suhayl ibn Amr. And out of her shock she forgot herself and said something that she immediately regretted: ‘O Aba Yazeed (a title for Suhayl), you surrendered like this? Why didn’t you die an honourable death than live like a prisoner?’
And she didn’t even understand what she had said until she heard the prophet next to her, ‘O Sawda, you are stoking him to fight against Allah and his messenger?’
At this, Sawda realised what she had said and exclaimed, ‘By Allah, the one who there is no god but him! I lost sense of what I was saying! When I saw him sitting like this I could not control myself!’ And Sawda was mortified by what had slipped out of her mouth, however the prophet once again demonstrated the beauty of his character and accepted her excuse and forgave her for her mistake.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 040
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 041