Defeat at the Battle of Uhud came as a great shock to the Muslims who fought that battle. They could not understand how they could achieve a resounding victory at Badr, when they were heavily outnumbered and shabbily equipped, and then suffer a defeat at the hands of an army which they had already forced to retreat.
Their defeat, however, made it clear to the early Muslims that victory was not theirs by right, and that they could not expect to win every battle they fought.
God wanted His servants to know that victory could not be assured unless they first set themselves on the road to victory. This meant that they must show determined perseverance in situations of hardship, and they must overcome their own desires and whatever temptations they faced.
Whenever they give priority to their own narrow interests, He leaves them to their own priorities.
Also, it was necessary for the Muslims to realize their mistake. They were not simply defending and protecting the person of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They were not fighting for the man, God's messenger. They were fighting for their faith and defending it against the forces which wanted to smother and suppress it. Hence, it is not appropriate for a people who believe in God and submit themselves to Him to stop fighting if the Prophet is killed.
God addresses them in the Quran:
[Muhammad is but a messenger before whom other messengers have passed away. If, then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? He who turns about on his heels will not harm God in any way. God will reward those who are grateful (to Him).] (Aal-`Imran 3:144)
Rare Heroic Examples
The greatest example of heroism, however, was displayed by the Prophet himself. One must remember that he was against going out of Madinah to meet the enemy. He would have preferred the Muslims to stay in their city and defend it against the attacking force. But he accepted the other view when he realized that it was shared by a broad section of the community. When his Companions felt that they might have to go back to his opinion, he would have nothing of it.
This is a lesson in sound leadership. The leader may consult with his advisers and review all options. When the implementation of the decision made after such consultation is under way, there is no more room for hesitation because hesitation can only lead to confusion and weakness.
Yet when things did not go the way the Muslims desired, it was the Prophet who remained steadfast, when most people around him were interested only in their own safety. Despite the extremely difficult situation in which he found himself, he stood out, calling his Companions, pointing out to them the right course to follow, caring nothing for his own safety as the enemy soldiers were rushing towards him, motivated by unalloyed hatred.
It is important to note that the soldiers who were turning away from the battle, trying to find a secure place in the mountain, were not cowardly. They were only overtaken by confusion.
The battle of Uhud was of great significance to the first generation of Muhammad's followers, they were able to draw on its lessons for the rest of their lives.
He only demonstrated what true conviction and true courage meant.
Indeed, he did not rebuke any of his men after the event. He graciously forgave them their errors. He consoled them and encouraged them, saying: "They shall never have a similar advantage over us until we enter the Kabah."
God has praised the Prophet"s generous attitude in the Quran:
[It was by God's grace that you (Prophet) dealt gently with your followers: for if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from you. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. Take counsel with them in matters of public concern; then, when you have decided upon a course of action, place your trust in God; God loves those who place their trust in Him.] (Aal-`Imran 3:159)
The Battle of Uhud was of great significance to the Muslims. That first generation of Prophet Muhammad's followers was able to draw on its lessons for the rest of their lives.
Some 60 verses of the third chapter of the Quran, "The House of Imran", comment on this battle. One should note that they contain only a mild reproach to the Muslims for their failures. The reproach, however, is mixed with advice which sets the Muslims on the right course for better results in the future.
The Prophet's Position in Muslim Society
A point of reproach concerned their attitude when the rumor was spread around that the Prophet had been killed. When the Prophet started to convey his message and called people to Islam, he made his position absolutely clear: "I am God's servant and messenger."
This meant that his task was to deliver his message in order to enlighten the hearts and minds of his followers. Once a person is thus enlightened, having received God's message, he should have enough wisdom to prevent him sinking back into the darkness in which he formerly lingered.
Those who have followed Prophet Muhammad as God's servant and messenger have seen in him a leader guiding them along the path of truth and establishing that link with God.
If God's servant dies in any circumstances, that link which he has established for them with God must not just disappear; it must stay and increase in strength.