The Companions
The Companions
 

The Lion of God, the Martyr of Uhud: Hamza (ra)

With his public acceptance of Islam, the few Muslims who were left behind in Mecca after the Ethiopian immigration became heartened and empowered. Hamza’s entrance into the ranks of the Muslims also frustrated the polytheists’ hostile schemes and ambitions against the believers to a certain extent.

Hamza (ra) was born in 570, one year before the Prophet (saw), in Mecca. His father is Abd al-Muttalib, and his mother is Hala bint Wuhayb, who was a paternal cousin of the Prophet’s (saw) mother. For this reason, Hamza was a relative of the Messenger of God (saw) both from his mother’s and his father’s side. In addition to being the Prophet’s (saw) uncle, Hamza was also his milk brother, since they had both been breastfed by Abu Lahab’s maid servant Suwayba. Being in the same age group, the Prophet (saw) and Hamza spent their childhood and teenage years together.

When the Prophet (saw) began his prophetic mission in the year 610 to convey God’s message to his people, he decided to address his close relatives first. With the purpose of inviting them to Islam, he organized feasts for his uncles and asked them to accept Islam and help him in his prophetic mission. At these meetings, his uncles responded to the Messenger of God (saw) in various ways: while Abu Lahab openly disputed his claims and rejected him, his other uncle Abu Talib, though not accepting Islam, promised to protect his nephew. Hamza and the other uncles did not show any visible interest in what the Prophet (saw) had to say.    

From the time that the Prophet (saw) invited his uncles to Islam until the time that Hamza became Muslim, his name does not show up in the records of the Meccan period. While it has been narrated that Hamza became Muslim in the 2nd year (612) or the 6th year (616) of the Prophet’s (saw) mission, the second account is more likely. Hamza’s acceptance of Islam came about as a direct consequence of the oppression and persecution that the Prophet (saw) experienced in the hands of the Meccan polytheists. The account is as follows: One day Abu Jahl, who was one of the leaders of the polytheists in Mecca, insulted the Prophet (saw). A woman who witnessed the incident reported it to Hamza, who was just returning from a hunting trip and was headed in the direction of the Kaaba to worship. Absolutely enraged, Hamza went directly to the meeting ground of the polytheists, found Abu Jahl, and struck him in the head with his bow. He declared: “I also accept Muhammad’s religion; insult me in the same way you insulted him if you have the courage!” With these words, he openly challenged Abu Jahl and declared his allegiance to Islam in front of the leading polytheists. Afterwards, he left the Kaaba, went to the Prophet (saw), told him what happened, and officially became Muslim. With his public acceptance of Islam, the few Muslims who were left behind in Mecca after the Ethiopian immigration became heartened and empowered. Hamza’s entrance into the ranks of the Muslims also frustrated the polytheists’ hostile schemes and ambitions against the believers to a certain extent. On the other hand, the Prophet (saw) had the opportunity to perform his prophetic duties with greater confidence and courage, now that he had the support and guardianship of another one of his uncles, in addition to Abu Talib.

When the Prophet (saw) established a brotherhood of faith between all Muslims during the Meccan period for them to support each other and maintain their integrity, Zayd b. Harisa, the Prophet’s adopted son and one of the very first Muslims, became Hamza’s brother in faith. Thanks to this brotherhood, the Muslims were able to maintain a steady and unified presence in Mecca until the Hijra (Migration). After the Hijra, another bond of brotherhood was established between the Immigrants and their Hosts, and this time Hamza’s brother was Kulthum b. Hidm (ra). After the immigration to the city of Medina, the Prophet (saw) started to mobilize military units with the purpose of guaranteeing the city’s security, informing the surrounding tribes about the presence of the Muslims, controlling the trade route between Mecca and Damascus, and blocking the Meccan trade caravans. In these military expeditions, which were called sariyya and were generally led by the Immigrants, Hamza often acted as platoon leader. During the Saif Al-Bahr Expedition, a platoon led by Hamza set out in the month of Ramadan of the first year of Hijra (March 623 AD) with the objective of interceding a Quraysh caravan, in which the polytheist notable Abu Jahl was also present, and carrying out a surprise attack if necessary. There was no military confrontation, but this operation led by Hamza made it clear that Medinan Muslims posed a serious threat to the Meccan polytheists. Hamza also played an important role in the Battle of Badr, which took place in the second year of the Hijra (624 AD) and was the first major military conflict between the Muslims and the Meccan polytheists. Before the battle itself, there were individual duels between members of the conflicting parties (mubaraza), and Hamza was one of the warriors who were sent by the Prophet (saw) to the arena on behalf of the Muslims. Hamza’s opponent from the polytheist side was Shayba b. Rabi’a, and Hamza defeated him very swiftly. He also helped with the killing of the polytheist leader Utba b. Rabi’a. Among those polytheists who were killed in these pre-battle duels, Abu Sufyan’s wife Hind had many relatives: Utba b. Rabi’a was her father, Shayba b. Rabi’a her uncle, and Walid her brother. Holding Hamza directly responsible for the deaths of her closest relatives, Hind developed a deep hatred for him and hired an Ethiopian slave named Wahshi to kill him in the next battle to avenge her father. 

“And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, well provided for, happy with what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, and they receive good tidings about those [to be martyred] after them who have not yet joined them - that there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Al’i Imran, 169-170)

Before the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet (saw) received news that the Meccans had mobilized towards Medina, and he organized a meeting with his Companions in order to discuss the most appropriate strategy to be followed against the oncoming Meccans. A group including Hamza argued that the best tactic would be to go outside the city and engage in open battle, like they did in the Battle of Badr. Even though the Messenger of God (saw) personally thought that defending the city from the inside would be better, he respected the outcome of the consultation with his leading Companions, including Hamza, and decided to go outside of Medina to meet the enemy there. During the Battle of Uhud, archers placed in a strategic position disregarded the Prophet’s (saw) orders and left their posts prematurely. In the resulting chaos and retreat, Hamza was one of the few who heroically defended the Prophet (saw) against the onslaught of the enemy. When he noticed the Muslims scattering, Hamza said: “I am the Lion of God and His Prophet. Lord, I seek refuge in you from the evil of Abu Sufyan and his men. I seek your forgiveness for the mistakes of Muslims.” With these words, he tried to encourage the Muslim soldiers and continued fighting himself. Meanwhile, the assassin hired by Hind was looking for an opportunity to kill Hamza. While Hamza was distracted by the battle, Wahshi threw his spear and killed him. During the battle, the Meccan polytheists had mutilated the corpses of Muslims that they came across; this act of mutilation is called musla, and it is strictly prohibited by the Prophet (saw). Hamza was also a victim of this, and his corpse was torn into pieces by the polytheists. When the Messenger of God (saw) saw his uncle in that state, he expressed his grief in these words: “Nobody has suffered as much calamity as you, and nobody ever will. Nothing has ever made me so angry. If there were such a thing as mourning, I would mourn for you.” At this moment a verse was revealed from God, which consoled both the Prophet (saw) and Hamza’s family: “And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, well provided for, happy with what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, and they receive good tidings about those [to be martyred] after them who have not yet joined them - that there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Al’i Imran, 169-170)

The Prophet (saw) personally took charge of the care and guardianship of Hamza’s family and children. He assigned Ja’far b. Abi Talib as the guardian of Hamza’s daughter Umama after Ja’far returned from Ethiopia, since his wife Asma was Umama’s maternal aunt. When it was time for her to marry, the Prophet (saw) married her to Salama b. Abi Salama from the Mahzum family. When Hamza’s killer Wahshi came to the Prophet (saw) after the conquest of Mecca in order to become Muslim, the Prophet (saw) remembered the death of his uncle. He felt such a deep grief that he told Wahshi to stay out of his sight, which is an extremely rare behavior in the Prophet’s (saw) life. However, this incident also shows just how much the Prophet (saw) loved his uncle Hamza. With the courage and heroism that he showed both in Uhud and the combats before Uhud, Hamza is considered to be a role model for all the soldiers and warriors that came after him. For the same reason, he was given the titles “the master of the martyrs” and “the lion of God”.

Hamza’s greatest service to Islam was his courageous and heroic deeds; his life did not last long enough to allow him to make other religious or scholarly contributions. For this reason, we do not have many hadiths transmitted from him. The sources mention that Hamza transmitted from the Prophet (saw) the following supplication: “O Allah, I am supplicating to you for the sake of your most glorious name and your greatest good will (rida)”.         


The Diyanet Magazine, November 2006

 

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