21.5 Victory then Defeat
Seeing how weak their enemy was before them, and how far they had fled, the Muslims entered the camp and began to collect the loot and captives. This occupied them and prevented them from pursuing the enemy. The archers, seeing what was happening, wanted to go down to collect their share of the booty and captives. One of them reminded them that the Prophet had commanded them to remain upon the mountain under any circumstances, but many of them did not listen. They thought the battle was over and they said,
"The Prophet did not say we should remain after Allah had humiliated the polytheists."
Their leader spoke to them but in vain. Down they all went except a few who remained with him.
Seeing what was happening, Khaled ibn AI-Walid, a brilliant strategist, took the opportunity to collect his cavalry and charged the few archers who now held the mountain and easily broke through. He then gave the battle-cry of Quraysh to signal that they had been able to penetrate to the Muslim rear. The scattered Qurayshys rallied to the cry from every direction. The Muslims were few and in disorder, found themselves caught in the talons of the Quraysh hawk. Quickly they threw down the booty and picked up their swords to fight, but alas! What a vast difference there was between fighting firm in faith for Allah's sake as one man, and fighting with the dross of this world in their hands, each trying to save his own life. They fought in confusion and disorder; they fought each other unknowingly. They were driven to the left and right and knew not where to turn. To break their morale completely, a voice from Quraysh cried out that Mohamed was dead. Now the Muslims fought with weeping hearts, for they loved Mohamed dearly. Some laid down their weapons out of sheer despair.
On hearing of Mohamed's death, all Quraysh charged forward in the direction where he was. Each wanted to take something of him as a relic to show to his children and grandchildren. The Muslims around him fought with surpassing courage to protect him. Abu Dujana used his own back as a shield to protect Mohamed from the arrows of Quraysh, while the others shot arrows like rain to drive Quraysh off. Umm Ayman, one of the women who had come out at the beginning of the day with a jug of water for the fighters, threw down the jug and picked up a sword, fighting a rearguard action with the men to protect him until she fell. At last the Muslims were able to drive them off and make a retreat up towards the mountain. On the way, Mohamed fell in one of the pits that Quraysh had built and wounded his face, but' Ali ibn Abi Talib supported him up the mountainside.
Some of the Muslims were stunned by the rumor and sat bewildered on the mountainside. A young warrior, called Anas ibn AI-Nadr, saw them and said,
"Why are you sitting here?"
"The Messenger of Allah is dead,"
"And of what use is life after him? Rise and fight for what he has died for."
He returned to the battle and kept fighting on until he had received seventy blows. After the battle, only his sister could recognize his body, and she only recognized him by his fingertips.
As Mohamed and those around him climbed the mountain of Uhud, people began to realize that he was still alive and rallied round him. At the same time Khaled ibn AI-Walid, the head of the cavalry forces of the Quraysh, also heard and came after them. Wounded, defeated, through no fault of his own, Mohamed continued to give instructions to those around him, continued to direct the battle. He said to them,
"They should not attain a higher position than us."
Whereupon Umar ibn AI-Khattab and a group of other Muslims blocked the way of the Quraysh cavalry and by dint of sheer courage and perseverance were able to drive them back.
Abu Sufyan, the head of the Qurayshi forces, also pursued them and cried,
"Is Mohamed alive?"
When no one answered, for the Messenger had given instructions that they answer him not, he assumed that Messenger had been killed. He then asked about the man, who was of the greatest importance after the Messenger and said,
"Is Abu Quhafa (meaning Abu Bakr) alive?"
Again no one answered and he assumed that Abu Bakr had been killed. So he asked,
"Is Ibn AI-Khattab alive?"
On hearing his own name, Umar could contain himself no longer and said,
"You lie, you enemy of Allah!"
Then Abu Sufyan realized that they were alive, but he was only too happy with the sudden and unexpected victory he had attained, so he did not recall his forces or press home his advantage while the Muslims were still weak, but he could not help crying out in satisfaction,
"A day for a day and our appointment is next year at Badr."