Against the odds, Muhammad's outnumbered force defeated Mecca's army, leading to the rise of Islam, Islamic militancy, and groups like ISIS.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 8, 2015 — As Ramadan approaches, let’s remember a major event that occurred when Islam was only in its second year as an organized religion.
The Battle of Badr was a turning point for Islam; had the outcome been different, Islamic extremism as we know it in the 21st century probably would not exist.
The battle was fought on Saturday, March 13, in the year 624, two years after the Prophet Muhammad left his home in Mecca and established Islam in Medina.
Tensions arose between Mecca and Medina almost immediately after Muhammad’s departure from his home city. By 623 there were already armed hostilities when the Muslims began raiding caravans en route to Mecca.
Raiding and looting caravans was practically a national pastime in the desert wilderness of Arabia in the early 7th century.
Medina was situated very near the Meccan trade route, which put the Muslims in a strong position for their raiding activities, which were also designed to wreak economic havoc on Mecca.
The Muslim army, which numbered only 313 men plus 70 camels and two horses, was about a third the size of the Meccan army of about 1,000 men. As the Muslims neared Badr in preparation for battle, early sources indicate that though the raid had been planned, no serious fighting was expected.
Ramadan was and is the high holy month for Islam; according to the Quran, it is supposed to be a time for fasting and personal introspection. History shows that more often than not, the opposite is true—Muslims use the opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerability of those observing the Ramadan traditions.
According to records from the day, the battle began when three champions from each army came forward to engage in combat. The Muslim trio quickly killed all three of their opponents, indicating to them that their chances for victory were better than they initially expected, despite being outnumbered.
When the actual battle ensued, the Meccans lacked enthusiasm for the fight and quickly fled. The entire battle was over by early afternoon, after only a few hours.
The significance of the victory for Muhammad was immeasurable. Not only did it elevate the prophet from an outcast to a major Arabian leader virtually overnight, it established Islam as a credible full-fledged religion, which has continued for 1,400 years.
The victory was interpreted as a sign from Allah that the Muslims were divinely inspired as the chosen army. The Battle of Badr is one of the few conflicts—there were more than 80 during Muhammad’s lifetime—that are recorded in the Quran, which has numerous references to this victory.
In addition to Muhammad, the other key beneficiary was a man named Abu Sufyan, who, due to the deaths of several tribal leaders, became the chief of the Quraysh almost by default.
Six years after the Battle of Badr, Muhammad’s army marched into Mecca and negotiated a peaceful surrender of the city with Abu Sufyan. In the process Sufyan emerged as a high-ranking Muslim official.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Badr, two important Meccan captives were beheaded. That precedent alone is enough to inspire the likes of ISIS today.
So important to Islam is the Battle of Badr that Egypt’s 1973 offensive in the Yom Kippur War was called “Operation Badr.” In the Iranian offensive against Iraq in the late 198os the operations were also named after Badr. In addition, as with the chosen date of 9/11, the date of the assault on Tripoli in 2011 was the 20th of Ramadan, which happened to be the anniversary of the Battle of Badr.
Had Muhammad and his outmanned army been defeated in the second year of Islam’s 14-century history, the Twin Towers of New York might still be standing, an American president would not be making apologies for a hate-based religion and the world would most certainly be more peaceful.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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