Seventeenth Ramadan is a reminder of the battle of Badr — the first major battle fought against the enemies of Islam. This decisive battle laid the foundation for the Islamic State and made Muslims a force to reckon with in the Arabian peninsula. A very important fact for all people to understand is that Islam is the religion of peace and that it is neither imposed nor forced on anyone, as clearly stated in the Holy Quran itself. It is a universal fact that history does not record one single episode in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) compelled any human being to convert to Islam. His character and conduct enticed people towards Islam.
This peaceful attitude of Islam is quite evident in that Muslims were ordered not to fight unless they were attacked, as Allah says: "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits, for Allah loveth not transgressor". (Al Baqarah 190).
It is clear from this verse that there is neither compulsion nor transgression in Islam except against the oppressors who harass and fight the Muslims. In other words, Muslims are ordered to fight to defend themselves but they should not be transgressors, for transgressors are hated by Allah. We have seen many so-called international writers taking the verses from the Holy Quran which talks of fighting but intentionally avoid the preceding and the following verses, which give the context of the entire clause.
When talking about the great battles of Islam, we should look deep into them in the light of this fact; namely that Muslims were not transgressors; they only fought against the oppressors.
The Battle of Badr took place on Ramadan 17, in the second year after the emigration of the Prophet (PBUH) from Makkah to Madinah. The Muslims were able to vanquish their enemies in this battle in which Allah separated truth from falsehood and it became known as the Battle of Separation. This established the power of the Muslims.
Badr is the name of the spot at which the battle took place, and is situated in the south-west of Madinah, and was a meeting point between Madinah Road and the road used by the caravans coming from Syria to Makkah. It is a plain that is bordered by hills and mountains and is known for the abundance of date palms and water wells. The majority of its people now belong to the Harb tribe.
During the Prophet's time, Badr was a watering station at which the caravans used to get water for their camels, and there used to be a market there once a year. Historians say the cause of the battle was that when the Quraish of Makkah were returning from Syria, the Prophet (PBUH) sent two of his companions to get news of them. They reached a place called Alhawra and waited there until Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, leader of the caravan, arrived, after which the two scouts hurried back to Madinah and informed the Prophet (PBUH).
The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have told his followers to go after the caravan, but no one was compelled to do so. He then departed with a contingent of just over 300 men (313-317), and they had between them only two horses and 70 camels.
The man who was left behind in Madinah to lead the prayers was Ibn Umm Maktum, and the army consisted of both immigrants (Muhajirin) numbering 86 and supporters (Ansar) of the Awas and Khazraj tribes. The Prophet (PBUH) divided the army into two detachments: the Muhajirin led by Ali ibn Abi Talib and the supporters under the leadership of Saad ibn Muadh.
The contingent set off from Madinah until they reached a place called Safra, from where the Prophet (PBUH) sent two of his companions out to scout around and bring him intelligence reports.
Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraish trading caravan, changed course and headed for the coast and thence to Makkah which the caravan reached safety. But before that he had already sent a messenger to Makkah to ask for help to rescue the caravan. The Quraish prepared a contingent of 1,300 warriors, which had 100 horses