It is perhaps not a coincidence that the number of the men, 313, is the same as the number of men who fought alongside the Prophet at the Battle of Badr. According to Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), “When the 12th Imam rises, Allah will gather the Shi’a of the Ahlul Bayt from every country. In another verse of the Qur’an Allah states, “And of Musa’s people there is a group who guide people with the truth and thereby do justice.” (7:159) Regarding this verse, Imam Sadiq said Allah will resurrect 27 men for the 12th Imam when he will rise. Some of them are those described in this verse from the nation of Musa.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) began his mission, he first delivered the message to his immediate family, and then to his more distant kin. After more than a decade when the followers of Islam in Mecca had increased in number, Islam was perceived as a real threat; Muslims began to be persecuted and attempts were being made to assassinate the Prophet.
After 13 years, the Muslims decided to immigrate to Medina; here they were welcomed and Islam was favorably received. While they continued to face conflict with those against Islam, the migration slowed down the progression of violence for a few years. Until one day, Abu Sufyan, upon seeing that his caravan to Syria (which carried weapons to mount a war against the Muslims) might be intercepted by the Muslims, changed his route and sent the word back to Mecca. In response, an army of at least 950 strong was sent to meet the Muslims, who numbered no more than 313 men alongside the Prophet.
The Muslims had not anticipated such a battle, and were outnumbered nearly 3 to 1. One of the Muslims, Miqdad, had emigrated with the Prophet from Mecca and was thus known as one of the Muhajireen. He said, “O Messenger of God, do what God has commanded you to do. We are with you, now and at all times, and we shall not tell you what the Israelites told Moses: ‘You and your Lord should go and fight against the enemy; as for us we shall stay here and sit here.’ No, we shall not imitate the Israelites. We shall follow you and obey your orders.” From the Ansar, who welcomed the Muslims who had fled from Mecca into Medina, Saad ibn Muadh added, “We have borne witness that you are the Messenger of God. We have given you our pledge to obey you. Wherever you go, we shall go with you. If there is a showdown with the polytheists, we shall be steadfast in our support to you. In war and in peace we shall be consistently faithful to you.”
Abu Sufyan’s army expected an easy victory considering their overwhelming numbers and with the advantage of being mentally and physically prepared. However the Muslims were ultimately victorious; they drove back the army while losing only a small number of their own in the battle. The victory of the Muslims, although not a landslide, resulted in huge psychological effects on both the Muslims and the polytheists alike. It was a turning point that established the real possibility that Islam could survive and thrive and that Muslims could have great influence in local and world affairs.
To avenge this loss and suppress the spread of Islam once and for all, the Quraysh thereafter prepared another battle at Uhud with an army three times as large. They brought women to this battle to jeer and taunt their enemy and act as cheerleaders, as well as a religious idol called Hubal to boost their own morale and emphasize that this was a war of religion to destroy the spread of Islam. The Prophet’s uncle, Hamza, lost his life at Uhud at the hands of Wahshi, a slave of Abu Sufyan’s wife, Hinda. This had deeply disheartened the Muslims. While initially another victory seemed likely, part of the Muslim army lost focus during the battle and began to have doubts. Some assumed victory too quickly, left their positions and began to hunt for spoils of war. This created an opening for the Quraysh to rally, which confused the Muslim army and caused some to flee, right past the Holy Prophet. As they did so, the women of the opposing army hoarded the battlefield and began to mutilate the bodies of the slain Muslims to search out trophies of war.
It was an ugly outcome for the Muslims. One battle went well for them, while the other did not. What was the cause of the difference? At Badr, the key to the success can be seen in the words of Saad ibn Muadh and Miqdad. When they spoke before the battle, they displayed the strength of their faith and commitment to protect Islam. They believed in serving God, not just receiving from Him and His Messenger. But unfortunately at Uhud, some had lost that vision – they diverted from their goal and became distracted by worldly things. They forgot that they were not fighting for themselves, but for truth. They forgot that even if they died they would be victorious, and that their enemy being in opposition to the truth, regardless of their size, would never triumph.
We live in a time approaching the advent of the greatest of imaginable affairs – the return of the Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance), when he will rid the world of oppression and establish an era of life on earth according to God’s plan. Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) said, “It is not allowed that a Muslim should fight the unbelievers under the authority of a tyrannical ruler or their traditions.” But when the Imam of our Age comes out of occultation, tyranny will not be permitted to be spread and the era of tyrannical rule will come to an end. This is the promise of God. But the Imam will not stand alone; with him in the overthrow of tyranny will be people with a clear focus and strong belief to answer his call. While do not know when this will happen, we must accept the possibility that it could happen in our time, when we will be responsible for responding to his call.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “Hasten then to do good works, surpassing each other. Wherever you are, Allah will bring you altogether; verily, Allah has power over all things.” (2:148) When asked to relate the meaning of this, Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) said, “I swear to Allah that it is as if I can see the Mahdi with his back resting on the black stone of the Ka’ba, calling out his rights:
‘O people! Those who dispute with me about Allah should know that I am the most knowledgeable about Allah. O people! Those who dispute with me about Adam should know that I am the most knowledgeable about Adam. O people! Those who dispute with me about Noah should know that I am the most knowledgeable about Noah. O people! Those who dispute with me about Abraham should know that I am the most knowledgeable about Abraham. O people! Those who dispute with me about Moses should know that I am the most knowledgeable about Moses. O people! Those who dispute with me about Jesus should know that I am the most knowledgeable about Jesus. O people! Those who dispute with me about Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, should know that I am the most knowledgeable about the Messenger of Allah. O people! Those who dispute with me about the Qur’an should know that I am the most knowledgeable about the Qur’an.’
“Then he will move to Maqam-e-Ibrahim where the footprint of Abraham is by the Ka’ba, and he will pray two units of prayer and call upon God with his Hebrew name and ask Allah to grant him his rights.”
Imam Baqir continued saying, “The first one to pay allegiance to the 12th Imam will be the angel Jibrael and then 313 men. These 313 men are those referred to in verse 148 of Surah al-Baqarah that the man had asked about; ‘wherever you are, Allah will bring you altogether’ – they (the 313 men) will disappear from their beds to join him with no prior appointment. There will be 50 women with them. Then a caller will call and announce his reappearance in a voice that will be heard by everyone on earth.”
It is perhaps not a coincidence that the number of the men, 313, is the same as the number of men who fought alongside the Prophet at the Battle of Badr. According to Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), “When the 12th Imam rises, Allah will gather the Shi’a of the Ahlul Bayt from every country. In another verse of the Qur’an Allah states, “And of Musa’s people there is a group who guide people with the truth and thereby do justice.” (7:159) Regarding this verse, Imam Sadiq said Allah will resurrect 27 men for the 12th Imam when he will rise. Some of them are those described in this verse from the nation of Musa. Also raised, according to this narration, will be the Holy Prophet’s companions, Salman al-Farsi and Malik al-Ashtar, and Miqdaad, the companion from the Battle of Badr who professed his readiness to fight for truth. Once these 313 men and 50 women have joined our Imam, he will lead an army of 10,000 men and these 313 will be his leaders. They will serve God and establish a rule truly free of oppression, such that a helpless old woman will be able to travel alone across the whole earth and never fear or face harm from another person.
The timeline of events leading up to his arrival shall be very swift; the world will change very quickly. As it may be that we will be witnesses and participants, we have a duty to prepare for this possibility, and to realize our potential to be one of the initial 313 men and 50 women or amongst the 10,000 or more soldiers who will serve the cause of God. But for this, we must align our thoughts with the converts at the Battle of Badr and not those at the Battle of Uhud; we must be strong in faith like he who said, “We have given you our pledge to obey you. We shall be consistently faithful to you.”