Today is the 17th of Ramadan. Fourteen hundred and thirty five years ago, this day witnessed the single most decisive battle in our history took place: the Battle of Badr. When we speak of Badr so much can be highlighted: the Muslim victory despite being in a materially much weaker position, the bravery of the Companions, the noble Prophet’s (saw) reliance on Allah (swt) and beseeching Him, miracles in the battle, the angels who came to fight led by Jibreel (as), and much more. Scholars have written books on this one battle alone. I just want to touch on one aspect though in this brief reflection, one that is less known though very important and relevant for us.
This battle is one which Allah, the Exalted, decreed and made happen.
“As when your Lord made you leave your home for the sake of truth…” [8:5]
This is despite the intentions of either side. Neither side from the Muslims or the mushrikeen initially wanted it to occur. Neither side had properly planned for it. The Prophet (saw) took a small number of Companions intending only to raid the caravan of Abu Sufyan, who, on his part, having escaped by the sea route did not want the matter to escalate. Abu Jahl, who had come out to avenge the Abu Sufyan had other plans.
“[Recall] when Allah was promising you that one of the two groups would become yours, and you were wishing that the one without strength should fall to you.” [8:6]
The two groups are the caravan of Abu Sufyan and the army of Abu Jahl. The Muslims wanted the smaller confrontation with the former. Allah (swt) had willed the latter. This is despite that the situation was such that had the three parties willingly wanted to engage in battle in one spot, they would have found it hard to make it happen of their own accord because they were all at cross purposes. Abu Sufyan was heading for Makkah by the Sea. Abu Jahl for him and then the Muslims. The Muslims for Abu Sufyan and later Abu Jahl. But Allah had willed that it take place.
“[Recall] when you were on the nearest end of the valley, and they were on the farthest one, and the caravan was below you. Had you made an appointment with each other, you would have disagreed about the appointment. But (it happened like this) so that Allah might accomplish what was destined to occur…”. [8:42]
Allah (swt) even made the numbers of either side seem other than what they were so that the battle would take place.
“[Recall] when in your dream, Allah showed them to you few in number. And if He had shown them to you many in number, you would have been demoralized and would have disputed in the matter, but Allah saved (you)…and when, at the time you met each other, He showed them to you few in number in your eyes, and reduced your number in their eyes, so that Allah might accomplish what was destined to occur.” [8: 43-44]
In other words, Allah (swt) was the one directing the whole affair.
To what end? The reign of truth over falsehood.
“And Allah intended to establish the truth through His words and to cut off the very root of the disbelievers, so that He proves the truth to be true and falsehood to be false…” [8: 6-7]
Since Allah had willed it, who could stop it? It took place and the result too was against all material calculations. The believers comprehensively routed the army of Quraysh, over three times their size.
The lesson in this for us is that Allah (swt) is in full control of what takes in the world, He is the one who delivers victory, and He has decreed that the Truth prevail. It is not us and our material abilities or resources, although they are important, indeed necessary for us, that achieve the objective. If we appreciate and internalise this reality, we would then appreciate that our job is but to understand what Allah commands us and fulfill it to the best of our ability with sincerity and diligence. He (swt) will direct matters to their sought conclusion. In other words, things will fall in place in a way we could never have anticipated.
This point is not just emphasised with respect to the Battle of Badr. It is highlighted multiple times and in different ways in the Qur’an, particularly with the stories of the prophets. One of the most poignant of these is the story of Musa (as). In the beginning of surat al-Qasas Allah (swt) informs us of the dire circumstance of Bani Isra’il and the extent of Firawn’s domination and oppression, straight away to declare His intent:
“…while We intended to favor those who were held as weak in the land, and to make them leaders and make them inheritors, and give them power in the land, and to show Pharaoh, Haman and their armies the very thing they were fearing from them.” [28:6-7]
Notably, in both this verse and 8:6 above the word intend/will [irada] with respect to Allah (swt) comes in the mudhari’ form (imperfect tense), yureedu (third person) and nureedu (first person plural (of majesty)) respectively. The mudhari’ form denotes continuity [istimrar] of an act, as opposed to the madhi which denotes the completion of an act. The implication is that Allah’s intent to “establish the truth” and “favour those weak in the land” is not something particular to those contexts alone, but general and continuing. It continues to be His intent and, thus, to take place as and how He wills.
Part of the deeper meaning to grasp here is that events like these are but a means for the making apparent of the perfect attributes of Allah (swt). Part of His wisdom of His creating the world is to make apparent His perfect attributes. And part of what a prophet’s triumph over a tyrant reveals is Allah’s power and ability. But what would the achievement of something easy, or even something relatively difficult, show? Nay, His power and ability is made apparent to us through the achievement of that which goes against all odds (according to human perception). The saving of a completely enslaved people from a tyrant by a single man from those very people, who grew up in the very house of the tyrant! The routing of a the strongest and most well-armed tribe in Arabia by a small contingent on foot…and so forth.
Sadly, many Muslims have fallen for the prevailing pragmatist (materialist) thought. Instead of working for what Allah has commanded, they deem it “impossible”, as if they themselves are the ones tasked with bringing it to fruition. So they start to change the command claiming “wisdom” or “moving with the times”. Thus, the establishment of the Deen, Khilafah, restraining oppressive superpowers, breaking their hold, and the like becomes a fantasy, pragmatism becomes wisdom, and the result is the deen of Allah begins to look hardly distinguishable from prevailing ideologies and systems.
A fundamental error in this thinking is the implicit understanding that you are doing it all yourself, that it is all a material calculation. It’s not. It’s the Machiavelli’s of the world who teach us that pragmatism is wisdom. Those whom Allah (swt) sent to us as role models taught us something else. They taught us that submission to, tawakkul on, yaqeen in, affirmation of Allah, the Exalted, is wisdom. They taught us the power of the spiritual, not reliance on the material. That is the way of believer.
May Allah give grant us understanding and tawfiq.
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