The History of the Battle of Badr (Explained)

The battle of Badr is mentioned in the Sura Al Imran and the subject of Sura al Anfal.

The battle of Badr is mentioned in the Sura Al Imran and the subject of Sura al Anfal.

The month of Ramadan wasn’t always free from hardships even for the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions. One of these hardships was the battle of Badr, one of the few battles mentioned in the Qur’an.

Fought on the 17 of Ramadan (13 March 624), 2 years after the Hijra, it was the first large-scale engagement between Muslims and the Quraysh, opposing around 313 Muslims against 950 well-equipped Meccan soldiers.

What circumstances led to the battle, what allowed the Muslims to win and what are its consequences for the centuries that followed?


When the Prophet moved to Medina, the Meccans used to launch raids against Medina to steal livestock belonging to the Muslims. Shortly after the Hijra, under unbearable pressure and out of necessity, the verses allowing Muslims to defend themselves were revealed, where God says:

Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.

The Muslims would then intercept caravans from Mecca and send men to gather intelligence on the Quraysh.

In January 624, two months before the battle, eight Muslims on a mission to obtain information, disguised as pilgrims, were discovered by a Meccan caravan. They decided to fight, then seized its goods and took prisoners, and killed one of its men, Amr bin Al-Hadrami. However, the killing took place during the month of Rajab, a sacred month for Arabs in which fighting was prohibited. This offense led the Quraysh to send an army to protect their caravans.

In April 624, it was reported Abu Sufyan was leading a caravan from Syria to Mecca containing weapons to be used against the Muslims. The Prophet gathered 313 men and went to Badr, 70 miles away from Medina, to intercept the caravan. However, Meccan spies informed Abu Sufyan about the Muslims coming to intercept his caravan; Abu Sufyan changed his course to take another path to Mecca and sent a message to Mecca. Abu Jahl replied to Abu Sufyan’s request and gathered an army to fight against the Muslims.

The Muslims also brought seventy camels and two horses. Companions such as Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali, and Hamza took part.

Some of the most important Quraysh joined, including Abu Jahl, for various reasons: some were out to protect their financial interests in the caravan; others wanted to avenge Ibn al-Hadrami, the guard killed at Nakhlah; finally, a few must have wanted to take part in what was expected to be an easy victory against the Muslims.

When the word about the Meccan army reached Muslims, the Prophet immediately consulted his companions and the most recent Muslims, the Ansars, who were in their right to return to Medina. While Abu Bakr feared the Muslims were not prepared enough, the majority of Ansars were in favour of the battle.

The Muslims arrived at the Badr wells one day before the Quraysh. When the Meccan caravan was safe, some of the Quraysh left for home. But Abu Jahl wanted to continue and threatened those who wanted to leave. In the meantime, Abu Sufyan joined the army.

At midnight on the 13th of March, the Quraysh marched into the valley of Badr. A first idolater started to provoke Muslims. Al-Aswad bin Abdul Asad Al-Makhzumi stepped out swearing he would drink from the water basin of the Muslims. He engaged in combat with Hamza, who struck his leg with his sword and dealt him another blow that finished him off.

The battle began with champions from both armies emerging to engage in combat. The Muslims dispatched the Meccan champions in a three-on-three melee. Ali and Hamza killed their opponents. Then they both assisted Ubaydah. While Ubaydah’s opponent died immediately, Ubaydah was mortally wounded to the leg. Ali and Hamza then carried Ubaydah back into the Muslim lines, where he died.

Both armies then began showering each other with arrows before attaching each other with melee weapons. When the Prophet gave the order to charge, he threw a handful of pebbles at the Meccans while yelling:

‘Defaced be those faces! God, terrify their hearts and invalidated their feet.’

The Meccans, understrength and unenthusiastic about fighting, promptly broke and ran. The battle itself only lasted a few hours and was over by the early afternoon. The Quran describes the force of the Muslim attack in many verses, including one referring to 5,000 angels helping the Muslims achieve victory over the Quraysh who were better equipped in terms of weaponry, camels and war horses:

‘If you are steadfast and mindful of Allah, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand swooping angels if the enemy should suddenly attack you!’


In some narrations, at the end of the battle, the Prophet wanted to look for Abu Jahl. Abdullah bin Mas’ud found him on the verge of death breathing his last breath. He stepped on his neck addressing him: ‘Have you seen how Allah has disgraced you?’ The enemy of Islam rebelliously answered: ‘I am not disgraced. I am no more than a man killed by his own people on the battlefield.’ And then he inquired: ‘Who has won the battle?’ Ibn Mas’ud replied ‘Allah and His Messenger.’ Abu Jahl then said with full bitterness: ‘Say to Muhammad, I was his enemy up to now; my enmity has increased twofold from now on!’

14 companions were martyred in the battle and 70 men from the army of the Quraysh were killed including Abu Jahl. Amongst the 70 Quraysh who were killed, it is said that 22-35 died at Ali’s hands. Many others were taken as prisoners, and treated with dignity and respect. Most of the prisoners were released upon payment of ransom and those who were literate were released on the condition that they teach ten persons how to read and write and this teaching was to count as their ransom.

The Battle of Badr was decisive in asserting the strength of the Muslims in the Arabian peninsula, and for the Quraysh and all other tribes to acknowledge Muhammad as one of the most important chiefs in the region. The other major beneficiary of the battle was Abu Sufyan, who safely protected the Meccan caravan, and with the loss of Abu Jahl, was to become a leader amongst the Quraysh.

The battle of Badr is mentioned in the Sura Al Imran and the subject of Sura al Anfal.

The battle of Badr is a powerful reminder that no matter how challenging are the fights we face or how strong an opponent can appear, victory is always possible for those who put their faith in Allah.