The term “ghazwa” is used to describe wars that took place in the early years of Islam. The person who fights is called “ghazi” and its plural form is “ghuzat” and “ghuzza”. The word “ghazwa” refers to any battle of the early years of Islam in which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself was present.
Ghazwa in Islam
The concept of Gazwah in Islamic history is specific to the time and circumstances of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions. Muslims carried out Ghazwa for various reasons, including self-defense, protecting the Muslim community, and spreading the message of Islam. Here are a couple of verses from the Quran that address fighting in self-defense:
Fight in the cause of Allah (only) against those who wage war against you, but do not exceed the limits. Allah does not like transgressors. (Surah Baqarah : 190)
Kill them wherever you come upon them1 and drive them out of the places from which they have driven you out. For persecution2 is far worse than killing. And do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque unless they attack you there. If they do so, then fight them—that is the reward of the disbelievers. (Surah Baqarah verse 191)
The Prophet (SAW) said, “A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah’s Cause in the forenoon or the afternoon is better than the world and whatever is in it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2792)
The history of Ghazwa during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is a critical part of early Islamic history. It provides insights into the challenges faced by the early Muslim community.
Here is a brief overview of the history of Gazwah during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him):
The Ghazwa Badr occurred in 624 CE (2 AH) in the Arabian Peninsula. It was a historic confrontation between the Muslim army led by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) and the Quraysh of Mecca, despite the Muslims being outnumbered. This event is highlighted in the Qur’an.
The Ghazwa Badr also referred to as The Day of the Criterion in the Qur’an. In the early history of Islam, the Gazwah Badr was a significant event. It took place in 624 CE (2 AH) in the Arabian Peninsula. The battle occurred between the Muslim army led by The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) and the Quraysh of Mecca. Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Muslim army, consisting of around 313 soldiers, confronted a force of approximately 1,000 Quraysh warriors. This verse emphasizes that the Muslims sought help from Allah during the Ghazwa:
(Remember) when you cried out to your Lord for help, He answered, “I will reinforce you with a thousand angels—followed by many others.” (Surah Al-Anfal verse 9)
The Gazwah of Uhud, which took place on March 23, 625 (3 AH). After a small Muslim army beat a bigger Meccan army at the Ghazwa Badr in 624, the Gazwah Uhud was the second military encounter between the Muslims and the Meccans. The Muslim army, led by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), consisted of around 700 soldiers. They faced a force of around 3,000 Quraysh warriors, led by Abu Sufyan.
In Surah Al-Anfal, the Quran recounts the events of the Ghazwa Uhad and the lessons learned from it. It highlights the importance of unity, obedience, and trust in Allah’s plan:
Similarly, when your Lord brought you (O Prophet) out of your home for a just cause, a group of believers was totally against it. They disputed with you about the truth after it had been made clear as if they were being driven to death with their eyes wide open. (Surah Al-Anfal verses 5-6)
(Remember, O believers,) when Allah promised (to give) you the upper hand over either target, you wished to capture the unarmed party. But it was Allah’s Will to establish the truth by His Words and uproot the disbelievers. (Surah Al-Anfal verse: 7)
To firmly establish the truth and wipe out falsehood—even to the dismay of the wicked. (Remember) when you cried out to your Lord for help, He answered, “I will reinforce you with a thousand angels—followed by many others.” (Surah Al-Anfal verses 8-9)
The word khandaq is the Arabised form of the Middle Persian word kandag “that which has been dug”.Salman the Persian advised Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to dig a trench around the city. The Gazwah Khandaq, also known as the Battle of the Trench, was a significant event in early Islamic history. It took place in the year 627 AD (5 AH), during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Gazwah Banu Mustaliq was a military expedition led by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) in 627 CE. The expedition took place after the Ghazwa of the Trench (Gazwah Khandaq). It targeted the Banu Mustaliq, who were allies of the Quraysh, Muhammad’s (SAW) arch-enemies. The expedition was triggered by Banu Mustaliq’s alleged plan to attack Medina. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) mobilized around 700 men and marched towards the Banu Mustaliq settlement. Upon reaching their location, the Banu Mustaliq were taken by surprise and fled as their camp was captured without much resistance.
The Gazwah Khaybar was fought in early 628 CE (7 AH) between the early Muslims, led by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The Banu , who resided in the Khyber fortress near Medina, had violated the terms of an agreement with the Muslim community. Consequently, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) gathered a force of around 1,500 to 1,600 Muslim warriors to confront them.
The Ghazwa Mota (Mutah) took place in the city of ‘Syria’ known as ‘Motta’. Ghazwa Mutah took place in September 629 (8 AH) between the forces of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the army of the Byzantine Empire and their Ghassanid vassals. It took place in the village of Mutah in Palaestina Salutaris at the east of the Jordan River and modern-day Karak.
The Ghazwa Ḥunain (Arabic: غَزوة حُنَین) occurred after the conquest of Mecca in 630 CE in the area of Hunain between Muslims under the commandership of the Prophet (SAW) and the Banu Hawazin and Thaqif who resided in the area of Taif. The Ghazwa Hunain took place after the conquest of Mecca. The Muslim army was facing a large force made up of the Banu Hawazin and other allied Quraysh. Gazwah Hunain served as a test for the Muslim army, reaffirming their faith and teaching them valuable.
The last Ghazwa of Islam is commonly known as the Ghazwa Tabuk. Gazwah Tabuk is the final ghazwa of the Prophet (SAW). It took place During Rajab and Sha’ban of the 630 in the region of Tabuk. As the Prophet (SAW) was heading toward Tabuk to fight the Romans, some of the companions, specifically Munafiqun (hypocrites), refused to join the army or tried to weaken the morale of the army. Before the expedition, the Prophet (SAW) appointed Hazrat Ali (RA) his successor in Medina in his absence. After a short tarriance of a few days, the army of Islam came back to Medina from Tabuk without any actual confrontation with the Romans.
There is a hadith that speaks about the Gazwah-e-Hind and says that whoever participates in this Ghazwa will enter Paradise.
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: ‘There are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the Fire: The group that invades India, and the group that will be with ‘Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon him.’ (Sunan an-Nasa’i 3175)
Shaheed in Islam
Shaheed originates from the Quranic Arabic word meaning “martyr”. Muslims use the term Shaheed to describe a martyr who is slain for the cause of Allah or the religion, usually in the field of battle by unbelievers.
The Prophet (SAW) said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah’s Cause).” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2795)
This Hadith emphasizes the unique status and reward of a martyr. This verse speaks about the concept of martyrdom and the rewards for those who are slain in the way of Allah.
Never say that those martyred in the cause of Allah are dead—in fact, they are alive! But you do not perceive it. (Surah Baqarah 2:154)
We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops. Give good news to those who patiently endure. (Surah Baqarah 2:155)
who say, when struck by a disaster, “Surely to Allah we belong and to Him we will (all) return.” They are the ones who will receive Allah’s blessings and mercy. And it is they who are (rightly) guided. (Surah Baqarah 2:156-157)
The Gazwah in Islam played a crucial role in the spread and protection of the faith. In Islamic history, Muslims fought numerous Ghazwas, each with its significance and outcome. From the early battles fought by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), such as Badr and Uhud, to the later expansions and conquests under the Rashidun Caliphs, the Ghazwas played a pivotal role in shaping the history and trajectory of Islam.