In the Shade of Uhud
Uhud looms large in my memories from Medina: the vast mass of mountain stretched across the skyline on the edge of the city of our Prophet (pbuh). I remember really vividly our visit to the site of the battle of Uhud; standing where the Prophet’s army once stood, where the Muslims repelled their pagan attackers right up to the brink of victory.
I remember climbing onto the high ground where the Muslim archers once stood, on the orders of our Prophet (pbuh), and where most of them abandoned their post in pursuit of the spoils of war, leaving the outnumbered Muslim forces vulnerable.
And I remember seeing the whole battleground spread out below, where the cavalry of Khalid bin Waleed (then still a pagan) swung around in a surprise attack that brought chaos and defeat to the Muslim ranks.
“How did this happen?” was the question on the lips of some amongst the Muslims (Qur’an 3.165). And in this period Allah revealed the verses of Surah Alee ‘Imran that give guidance for the Muslims following their defeat.
But what lessons are there in the battle of Uhud for us in the 21st Century?
For centuries the Ummah has suffered defeat upon defeat. From the fall of Muslim Spain, through humiliation at the hands of colonial powers, right up to the invasion of Iraq and the current miserable state of the Ummah, defeat has followed upon defeat.
“How did this happen?” is once again the question on the lips and in the hearts of many Muslims…
The Qur’an makes clear to us that defeat is a test from Allah and a means to distinguish the true believers from the hypocrites who do not really intend to struggle in His cause (Qur’an 3.152, 3.166-7). And Allah describes for us the example of the true believers:
“They never lost heart if they met with disaster in Allah's way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor give in. And Allah loves those who are firm and steadfast.” (Qur’an 3.146)
So why is it that when our team is out campaigning, appealing for Muslims to support our efforts to defend the Ummah, we constantly come up against a passive defeated mindset?
“I went on the march and it didn’t stop the war – there’s nothing we can do.”
“Palestine has been occupied for 60 years – you’re wasting your time!”
When I hear the verses that Allah revealed after the defeat of Uhud, and I hear these excuses for refusing to take action, it leaves me with a lot of questions:
Do we think our enemies are invincible?
“If Allah helps you, no one can overcome you; if He forsakes you, who else can help you?” (Qur’an 3.160)
Are we afraid? Do we not follow the example of our Prophet (pbuh) and his companions?
“When people said, ‘Fear your enemy; they have amassed a great army against you', they replied, ‘Allah is enough for us: He is the best protector’” (Qur’an 3.173)
Perhaps we think that it’s enough that we make dua?
“When you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in Allah” (Qur’an 3.159)
And do we not know that the true victory is success in the next life?
“Every soul will taste death and you will be paid in full only on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is kept away from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have triumphed. The present world is only an illusory pleasure.” (Qur’an 3.185)
A lot of questions… questions of faith that each one of us can only really answer for ourselves. But for me, in the face of defeat, it comes down to one crucial question:
Will we give up?
Or will we strive with everything Allah has given us and put our trust in Him?