Before migrating to Madinah, Muslims endured many years of persecution at the hands of the unbelieving Quraysh, including torture, murder and embargo. In Madinah Muslims found themselves secure and safe and hence the divine decree of jihaad came in case of any further harassment by kuffaar. In the middle of Jamadil Awwal of 2 AH a report was received in Madinah that a trade caravan was going from Makkah to Syria under the leadership of Abu Sufiyaan.
Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) decided to send two men to find out more facts about this caravan. He told them to find out about its route, the number of guards, as well as the nature of the goods they were carrying. The two men gathered the following information:
- It was a big caravan and all the Makkans had shares in its goods.
- The leader of the caravan was Abu Sufiyaan and it was guarded by 40 men.
- The goods were loaded on 1,000 camels and were valued at about 50,000 dinars.
The Quraysh had confiscated the property of all the Muslims who had migrated from Makkah, and therefore Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) decided to also seize the property of the Makkans as compensation. Although the Muslims pursued Abu Sufiyaan, they could not reach him. However, the time of the return of the caravan was almost certain because the Quraysh always used to return from Syria to Makkah in the early autumn.
Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) left Madinah and proceeded towards the valley of Badar, 80 miles away, where he awaited the return of the caravan. Abu Sufiyaan realized that the Muslims would wait for him at Badar which was a stopping place on the route to Makkah, so he sent an urgent message to Makkah for help. The Makkans immediately sent out a large army of 1000 men under the command of Abu Jahl to fight the Muslims at Badar. Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) was informed of the march of the Makkan army and he asked the Muslims what they thought about engaging in a battle. Although some Muslims wanted to return to Madinah, Miqdaad, who was a true believer, stood up and declared, "Yaa Nabiyallaah, we are with you and we shall fight."
Meanwhile Abu Sufiyaan decided to take a longer route back home, and avoid Badar. Once he was safely in Makkah, he sent a message to Abu Jahl to return, but Abu Jahl was too proud to go forward and wanted to crush the Muslims with his large army.
The two armies clashed on 17th Ramazaan, 2 AH. The Muslim army consisted of 313 soldiers, having between them only 2 horses and 70 camels. The Makkan army had 1000 soldiers, 100 horses and 700 camels. They were much better equipped than the Muslims.
According to Arab custom, there was single combat before the battle began. Three famous warriors, Utbah bin Rabi'yah, Shaybah bin Rabi'yah and Waleed bin ‘Utbah challenged the Muslims. Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) sent 'Ubaydah bin al-Haaris, Hamzah bin Abdul Muttalib and Maulaana Ali bin Abi Taalib (sa). ‘Ubaydah faced ‘Utbah, Hamzah faced Shaybah and Maulaana Ali (as) faced Waleed. Hamzah and Maulaana Ali (as) soon killed their opponents, but ‘Ubaydah was badly hurt and later died while going back to Madinah at Waadi-e-Safraa. Hamzah and Maulaana Ali (as) both of them then killed ‘Utbah. The Quraysh were disturbed to see the skill of the Muslim warriors and began to attack together.
Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) held back his small army and ordered them to fire arrows at the enemy. This organised attack broke up the ranks of the Makkans and, seeing their confusion, Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) ordered a general attack. The Muslims began to fight with confidence and the valley of Badar rang with the sounds of battle. Then Maulaana Ali (as) tore into the heart of the Makkan army, killing Qurayshi soldiers with terrifying ease. His power and skill with the sword struck terror into the hearts of the Makkans, who began to flee. Before long, the battle was over and the Muslims had achieved a great victory, despite being outnumbered.
In this battle the Muslims lost 14 men, while 70 Makkans, including their chiefs Abu Jahl, Nawfal, Umayyah and others were killed. Out of these, Maulaana Ali (as) killed 36 men himself and helped in killing several others. 70 prisoners were taken by the Muslims. The prisoners were treated with much kindness by the citizens of Madinah and some became Muslims. "Blessing be on the men of Madinah", said one of these prisoners in later days, "They made us ride, while they themselves walked, they gave us wheat and bread to eat when there was little of it; contenting themselves with dates."
The rich prisoners paid ransom and were set free. Others were asked to teach 10 children each to read and write while the rest were released by Rehmatul lil Aalameen Mohammad (saws) and allowed to return to Makkah.
The victory at Badar strengthened the faith of the Muslims and warned the unbelievers of Makkah that Islaam was now a force to be reckoned with. During the same year Allaah sent down the command making fasting compulsory on Muslims.