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 Battle of Badr

The Battle of Badr (Arabic: ???? ????), fought March 17, 624 CE (17 Ramadan 2 AH in the Islamic calendar) in the Hejaz of western Arabia (present-day Saudi Arabia), was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad`s struggle with the Meccan Quraish[1]. The battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention or the genius of Muhammad. Although it is one of the few battles specifically mentioned in the Muslim holy book, the Qur`an, virtually all contemporary knowledge of the battle at Badr comes from traditional Islamic accounts, both hadiths and biographies of Muhammad, written decades after the battle.

Prior to the battle, the Muslims and Meccans had been engaging in several smaller skirmishes and by late 623 and early 624 the Muslim ghazawat had become more frequent. Badr, however was the first large-scale engagement between the two forces. Muhammad was leading a raiding party against a caravan when he was surprised by a much larger Quraishi army. Advancing to a strong defensive position, Muhammad`s well-disciplined men managed to shatter the Meccan lines, killing several important Quraishi leaders including Muhammad`s chief antagonist, Amr ibn Hisham. For the early Muslims the battle was extremely significant because it was the first sign that they might eventually overcome their persecutors in Mecca. Mecca at this time was one of the richest and most powerful pagan cities in Arabia, fielding an army three times larger than that of the Muslims.

Muhammad
Main article: Muhammad
At the time of the battle, Arabia was sparsely populated by a number of Arabic-speaking peoples. Some were Bedouin; pastoral nomads organized in tribes; some were agriculturalists living either in oases in the north or in the more fertile and thickly settled areas to the south (now Yemen and Oman). The majority of Arabs were adherents of numerous polytheistic religions. There were also tribes that followed Judaism, Christianity (including Nestorianism), and Zoroastrianism.

Muhammad was born in Mecca around 570 CE into the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe. When he was about forty years old, he is said to have experienced a divine revelation while he was meditating in a cave outside Mecca. He began to preach to his kinfolk first privately and then publicly. Response to his preaching both attracted followers and antagonized others. During this period Muhammad was protected by his uncle Abu Talib. When he died in 619 and the leadership of the Banu Hashim passed to one of Muhammad`s enemies, Amr ibn Hisham,[2] who withdrew the protection and stepped up persecution of the Muslim community.

In 622, with open acts of violence being committed against the Muslims by their fellow Quraishi tribesmen, Muhammad and many of his followers fled to the neighboring city of Medina. This migration is called the Hijra and marked the beginning of Muhammad`s reign as both a temporal as well as a religious leader.


The Ghazawat
Following the hijra, tensions between Mecca and Medina escalated and hostilities broke out in 623 when the Muslims began a series of raids (called ghazawat in Arabic) on Quraishi caravans. Ghazawat (s. ghazw) were plundering raids organized by nomadic Bedouin warriors against either rival tribes or wealthier, sedentary neighbors. Since Medina was located just off Mecca`s main trade route, the Muslims were in an ideal position to do this. Even though many Muslims were Quraish themselves, they believed that they were entitled to steal from them because the Meccans had expelled them from their homes and tribes, a serious offense in hospitality-oriented Arabia.[3] Also, there was a tradition in Arabia of poor tribes raiding richer tribes. It also provided a means for the Muslim community to carve out an independent economic position at Medina, where their political position was far from secure. The Meccans obviously took a different view, seeing the Muslim raids as banditry at best, as well as a potential threat to their livelihood and prestige.[4]

In late 623 and early 624, the Muslim ghazawat grew increasingly brazen and commonplace. In September 623, Muhammad himself led a force of 200 in an unsuccessful raid against a large caravan. Shortly thereafter, the Meccans launched their own "raid" against Medina, although its purpose was just to steal some Muslim livestock.[5] In January 624, the Muslims ambushed a Meccan caravan near Nakhlah, only forty kilometers outside of Mecca, killing one of the guards and formally inaugurating a blood feud with the Meccans.[6] Worse, from a Meccan standpoint, the raid occurred in the month of Rajab, a truce month sacred to the Meccans in which fighting was prohibited and a clear affront to their pagan traditions.[4] It was in this context that the Battle of Badr took place.

 

The march to Badr