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Nabi Muhammad (saw): Motives of the Wars

Nabi Muhammad (saw): Motives of the WarsUnlike the self-centered rulers and kings all over the world who embark on wars for expansionist purposes, for the exploitation of human powers, and for the plunder of other people's wealth and natural resources, Nabi Muhammad (saw) refused to resort to the sword and fighting unless it was necessary and unavoidable. Instead, he advanced carrying the torch of the Holy Book and the divine laws and would get involved in war only to remove the stumbling blocks - the thorns in the way of salvation - to hinder oppression and tyranny, and to hoist the flag of justice and truth.

The battles of Nabi Muhammad (saw) against the infidels were, needless to say, meant to remove those brutal selfish pagans from the scene who for the sake of their own satanic passions and desires inflicted all kinds of oppression against God's pure creatures and prevented the promulgation of Islamic precepts and beliefs. He only fought to bring about conditions of justice and equity under which human beings could materialize the ideology of world peace and mutual understanding.

Can such a war be considered illegitimate and unjust? It goes without saying that such struggles are necessary and that no Prophet could avoid combating those who intend to bring ruin on human societies and cause corruption and social decay. No doubt any wise, humanitarian person accepts such combat and admires it because there is no other way to achieve the sacred ends of the Prophets.

Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, had a short prophetic life and lived under conditions that did not permit war, so he did not attempt any wars. Otherwise, he too would have destroyed the weeds and troublemakers of human society.

Some people propaganda purposely misinterprets the holy wars of the Nabi Muhammad (saw) and ascribes large numbers of casualties to them to weaken the morale of Islamic nations, to hinder the ever-increasing expansion and prevalence of Islam, and to make the murder of millions of innocent people by the masters of churches and in the crusades appear trivial and negligible to the people of the world.

Here we will first point out the motives of Nabi Muhammad (saw) in the wars he undertook, and then we will briefly cite the casualties of all the wars at the time of Nabi Muhammad (saw), so the truth may be made clear. In this way, readers can realize the philosophy of Islamic wars for themselves and can also see that the casualties of these holy wars were trivial in comparison with those of other wars.

Battle of Badr (First battle of Islam)

For 13 years after the advent of the prophetic mission of Nabi Muhammad (saw), he and his followers were tormented and tortured by the infidel Quraish in Makkah. Finally, Nabi Muhammad (saw) left Makkah and migrated to Medina. Yet the infidel Makkans did not stop tormenting the Muslims who had remained in Makkah and also did not let them leave Makkah and migrate somewhere else.

At the same time, the Makkan enemies of Islam had decided to put Medina under a -severe economic siege. They had forbidden all caravans from carrying provisions and foodstuffs to Medina. This siege lasted such a long time that the people of Medina were faced with many troubles and hardships and had to go as far as the coasts of the Red Sea to buy foodstuff.

Abu Jahl, too, wrote an extremely harsh and rude letter Nabi Muhammad (saw) and in that letter warned him to expect the attack of the Quraish.

It was on this occasion that Allah (SWT) said, 'Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them; those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And had there not been Allah's repelling some people by others, certainly there would have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah's name is much remembered; and surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty.' (Noble Qur'an, 22:39-40).

Battle of Badr (First battle of Islam)In the second year of the Hijra, Nabi Muhammad (saw) arose to guard Islam, to defend the basic rights of the Muslims, and to frustrate the satanic conspiracies of the Quraish. In the battle of Badr, they confronted the Quraish troops. Though the number of Muslim combatants (313) was one-third that of the infidel forces (1000), the Muslims defeated the infidels by their power of faith and by Allah's (SWT) help.

Nabi Muhammad (saw) and the two boys

One of the many qualities of the Nabi Muhammad (saw) was wisdom. An example of this was when the Muslims were preparing to fight Mushrikeen (polytheists) in the battle of Badr. Nabi Muhammad (saw) wanted to know the number of soldiers in the Makkan army so the Muslims could plan their strategy accordingly. He (saw) sent a group of Muslims to find it out before the battle started.

At the water wells in Badr, they found two boys and brought them to Nabi Muhammad (saw). When these boys saw Prophet Muhammad's glowing face and how merciful he was with them, they were not afraid and tried to help, but they did not know the exact numbers of the soldiers.

Nabi Muhammad (saw) asked them, How many camels do they slaughter everyday? Boys replied, One day, nine and another day, ten.

From their answer, Nabi Muhammad (saw) estimated between 900 and 1000 soldiers. He (saw) worked out a plan for the battlefield and the Muslims followed it in their fight. They were victorious with the help of Allah (SWT), even though they were only 313 in number which was one-third that of the size of the Makkan army (1000)! Because of their faith, the Muslims raised the flag of Islam high in their first battle against Mushrikeen (polytheists).

Battle of Uhud (Second battle of Islam)

Since a considerable number of the infidel troops had been killed in the battle of Badr, the next year, the third year after the Hijra, the Quraish prepared for war to take revenge for their defeat in the Badr war. The hatred of Nabi Muhammad (saw), Imam Ali (as) and Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib was a fire that consumed Hind bint Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan. They proceeded to Medina. They faced the army of Islam in a place called Uhud. Since a number of the Muslims in the war did not fully obey the instructions of Nabi Muhammad (saw), the Muslims did not become victorious in the battle of Uhud as in the battle of Badr.

Patience is better than Retaliation

When the battle of Uhud had concluded, Nabi Muhammad (saw) dispatched Harith ibn Samt to search for the body of his uncle, Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib, amongst the dead. When Harith ibn Samt witnessed that Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib's liver had been taken out and his body mutilated by cutting off the ears, nose and other parts of the body, he could not bring himself to inform Nabi Muhammad (saw) of this unpleasant occurrence.

As a result, Nabi Muhammad (saw) himself arrived amongst the dead, but when his eyes fell upon the mutilated body of his uncle, he (saw) was immensely disturbed. As he wept, he said: "By Allah! Nothing has disturbed me more than this. If Allah (SWT) grants me dominance over the Quraish, I shall mutilate seventy of their individuals."

At that moment, angel Gabriel (Jabra'il) descended with the following verse: "And if you take your turn, then retaliate with the like of that with which you were afflicted; but if you are patient, it will certainly be best for those who are patient." (Noble Qur'an, 16:126)

Whereupon Nabi Muhammad (saw) said: "I shall exhibit patience over this calamity."

The person who killed Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib was Wahshi - the slave of Jubair - who, upon the orders of Hind bint Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb. Her father, Utbah, had been killed in the battle of Badr, had torn open Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib's stomach, pulled out his liver and presented it to Hind bint Utbah.

Ahzab (battle of the Trench) or Jung-E-Khandaq (Ghazwah al-Khandaq)Taking the liver she bit into it, but by Divine decree was unable eat it. Arriving at Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib's body, she went on to mutilate it and then rewarded Wahshi by gifting him her necklace, bracelet and earrings.

Ahzab (battle of the Trench) or Jung-E-Khandaq (Ghazwah al-Khandaq)

In the fifth year of the Hijra, a Jewish tribe called Bani Nazir went to Makkah and incited the Quraish against Islam and the Muslims. The Quraish took advantage of the opportunity, gathered a huge army from different anti-Islamic groups, and started toward Medina.

Salman al-Farsi suggested that a trench should be dug around the city for protection as he has seen in Persia. So, to guard Medina, the headquarters of Islam, from enemy attack the Muslims dug trench / moats all around the city and lined up in front of the enemy army, whose number amounted to 10,000. Imam Ali, peace be upon him, overcame and defeated their commander, Amr ibn Abd Wudd and finally the war ended to the advantage and victory of the Muslims.

Battle of Khaybar

Large numbers of Jews lived in the Khaybar forts and had military and economic relations with the infidels. Since the security of the Muslims was constantly threatened by those anti­Islamic Jews, in 7 AH the Muslims started towards Khaybar, which was the headquarters of the enemy, surrounded the fort, and, Imam Ali, peace be upon him, killed Marhab, the chief of the fort. Victorious Muslims, made the Jews submit to the Islamic government.

Battle of Mu'tah

In 8 AH, Nabi Muhammad (saw) sent Harith ibn Umar with a letter to the king of Basra, but his messenger was killed in a place called Mu'tah. At the command of Nabi Muhammad (saw), the army of Islam marched towards the enemy, and in Mu'tah they confronted the army of Marqal, the king of Rome. His army comprised 100,000 Roman and non-Roman fighters. A war broke out between the two armies in which Zayd ibn Harith, Ja'far ibn Abi Talib, and Abdullah ibn Rawahah, the three famous commanders of the army of Islam, were martyred, and the Muslims could not overcome the infidels, so they returned to Medina.

Conquest of Makkah occurred without battle or bloodshed in 630 CE

In the Hudaybiyah peace agreement, the Quraish had promised Nabi Muhammad (saw) not to transgress against or oppress the Muslims and their confederates, but they violated the agreement and helped the Bani Bakr tribe to destroy the Khaza'ah tribe, which was one of the confederates of the Muslims. To hamper their aggression, Nabi Muhammad (saw) approached Makkah in secrecy, entered it through an elaborate device, and conquered Makkah with his strong army of approximately ten thousand soldiers which occurred without battle or bloodshed in 630 CE, in the 8th year of the Hijrah (8 AH).

Conquest of Makkah occurred without battle or bloodshed in 630 CENabi Muhammad (saw) destroys the idols

Nabi Muhammad (saw) destroyed the idols in the Kaaba as his grandfather Prophet Abraham (as) had done before. As narrated by Imam Ali (as), "Nabi Muhammad (saw) and I went until we arrived in the Kaaba. Nabi Muhammad (saw) asked me to sit down and he mounted on my shoulders. When I wanted to get up, he noticed a weakness in me. He (saw) dismounted and he himself sat down for me and asked me to mount on his shoulders. I mounted on his shoulders and he got up. I imagined that if I wanted, I would reach the horizon of the heaven. I went up the House and there was on it an idol of brass or copper. I began moving it right and left, from behind and from before until I could pluck it out. Nabi Muhammad (saw) asked me to throw it down and I did. It broke into pieces as pots break."

When Allah (SWT) granted the great conquest over Makkah to His Nabi Muhammad (saw), there were three hundred idols or more hung on the walls of the Kaaba which the tribes of Quraish worshipped away from Allah (SWT).

The master of those idols was Hubal which was the god of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb. It was made of copper and tied with iron pegs on the wall of the Kaaba. Imam Ali (as) got upon Prophet Muhammad's (saw) shoulders, plucked this idol out, and threw it to the ground while Nabi Muhammad (saw) was reciting this verse [And say: The truth has come and the falsehood has vanished; surely falsehood is a vanishing (thing). (Noble Qur'an 17:81)] Then, Imam Ali (as) threw down the rest of idols and thus the Kaaba was purified of those filths hung on the walls and taken as gods by Quraish.

Forgiving the Enemies after the Conquest of Makkah

After conquering Makkah, Nabi Muhammad (saw) treated people so kindly that they all were surprised. No one could believe that a victor could treat the defeated party in this way.

People of Makkah had gathered in the Sacred Mosque to see the leader of Muslims and Islam come out of Kaaba and judge those who committed all kinds of persecution against him for thirteen years. However, after breaking the idols, Nabi Muhammad (saw) came out of Kaaba addressing the people of Makkah as such,

"O people! You were bad kinsmen and neighbors for me. You expelled me from my hometown and fought against me in an unmanly way. You did not spare any attempt to persecute me, my friends and my companions. You killed my uncle, Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib. You fought against Allah's Messenger so I have the right to avenge myself on you. Based on this right, your men must be killed, your wives and children must be taken captive, your property must be seized by the conquerors, and your houses must be demolished. But I leave the judgment to you. What do you think?"

Suhayl ibn Amr, prominent Quraish representing his people, said, "We speak good and think good. You are an honorable brother and an honorable nephew who has power over us."

These words impressed the tenderhearted Nabi Muhammad (saw) in such a way that his eyes were filled with tears. People of Makkah started weeping. Then Nabi Muhammad (saw) said, "I do the same thing as my brother Joseph did. There is no sin upon you today. May Allah (SWT) forgive you; He is the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful."

After Conquest of Makkah, general amnesty for all the peopleThis great tolerance and forgiveness brought about the submission of the people of Makkah to Islam. In this triumphant battle, Nabi Muhammad (saw) ordered the Muslims not to fight for any reason other than defense and against the violations of the infidels.

After Conquest of Makkah, general amnesty for all the people

When the Nabi Muhammad (saw) conquered Makkah, he (saw) announced a general amnesty for all the people - except a few individuals, who were to be killed whenever found; amongst these were Abdullah ibn Zab'ari, who used to satirize Nabi Muhammad (saw), Wahshi, who had killed his uncle Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib in the battle of Uhud [When Wahshi recounted the episode of the killing of his uncle, Hamza ibn Abd Al-Muttalib, the Nabi Muhammad (saw) wept profusely but then pardoned him and said: (Disappear from my sight)], Ikramah Ibn Abi Jahl, Safwan Ibn Umayyah and Habbar Ibn al-Aswad - all of whom he eventually pardoned after they were brought before him (saw).

As for Habbar Ibn al-Aswad, he was the person who frightened Zainab - the Prophet Muhammad's (saw) daughter, who had been sent towards Madinah by her husband, Abu al-Abbas Ibn Rabee - on the way to Madinah as a result of which she suffered a miscarriage. Subsequent to this act of his, the Nabi Muhammad (saw) had declared it permissible to shed his blood.

After the conquest of Makkah he approached the Nabi Muhammad (saw), expressed regret over his misdeed and, seeking forgiveness, said: "O' Prophet of Allah! We were of the polytheists, however Allah (SWT), by means of you, guided us aright and delivered us from perdition, so disregard my ignorance and that which you have heard about me, and pardon me!"

Nabi Muhammad (saw) said: "I pardon you. Allah (SWT) has exhibited kindness towards you in that He has guided you into Islam; with the acceptance of Islam, bygones become bygones."

Battle of Hunayn and Siege of Taif

Forgiving the Enemies after the Conquest of MakkahThe Havazin tribe had gathered an army against Islam. Nabi Muhammad (saw) was informed of their satanic intentions and mobilized 12,000 Muslim soldiers to confront them. The two opposing armies fought each other in the valley of Hunayn, and finally the Islamic army defeated the army of the infidels and subdued them.

After this victorious war, Nabi Muhammad (saw) attempted to fight the Saghif tribe, who had conspired with the Havazin against Islam, but after having besieged it for a while; he dispensed with its conquest and returned to Makkah.

Some other less severe wars also took place between the army of Nabi Muhammad (saw) and the infidels, and also several journeys for the propagation of Islam were made during these blessed times.

Now the data on casualties, from both the Muslim army and the infidel's army, of all the wars that took place between the Muslims and the infidels are presented, having been gathered from credible documents.

Names of the Wars Tarikh Khumays Sirat ibn Hisham Tarikh al-Yaqubi Tabaqat Bihar al-Anwar Tarikh al-Tabari
Battle of Badr 84 84 86 84 84 84
Battle of Uhud 93 92 90 109 109 70
Ahzab 9 9 14 11 9 9
Banu Qurayzah 800 850 750 700 900 850
Banu Mustaliq 12 - - 10 10 -
Battle of Khaybar 32 23 - 98 - 3
Battle of Mu'tah 21 13 - 13 - 3
Makkah 39 20 - 33 - 21
Battle of Hunayn and Taif 96 101 - 87 112 85
Other Battles 250 122 - 119 333 210


1. This data has been presented, observing, in the case of differences, the maximum numbers, and we have left blank any place for which we have not found any data.

2. Tarikh Khumays is one of our sources of acquiring data and is a collection of tens of books on commentary, ahadith (traditions of the Prophet of Islam) and history.

It goes without saying that, in comparison with the casualties in the crusades of the Christians, those of the Islamic wars against the infidels are trivial, and also there is no doubt, therefore, that none of the wars of Nabi Muhammad (saw) were launched out of motives of expansion, revenge, or aggression. Rather, they were aimed at the repulsion of the aggressors, defense of the honour of the Muslims, and independence and the exaltation and prevalence of right, truth, and justice.

A Frenchman relates, 'While Islam has made it incumbent upon Muslims to make Jihad, it has ordered Muslims to treat the followers of other faiths with tolerance, justice, and remission and has given them freedom of religion.'

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