“O Allāh! Should this group be defeated today, You will no longer be worshipped.”
These were the words of the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as he stood before his Lord one Friday night with his hands raised in the air, his palms wide open, weeping, whilst supplicating for victory for the Ummah. So troubled was the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that his tears did not cease, his supplications did not end, until his cloak fell off his shoulders and Abū Bakr (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu), his closest companion, assured him that Allāh would not reject his prayer. But this was no ordinary night and this was no ordinary place. This was the 17th night of Ramadān and this du’ā’ (supplication) was being made in the valley of Badr, on the eve of the battle of Badr, the most important battle ever to be fought by the Muslims. Completely outnumbered by a much better equipped army, the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and the Muslims did all they could physically do and made du’ā’ before, during and after the battle. Out of His infinite mercy, Allāh granted them victory against the odds that would never be forgotten where 313 men, 2 horses and 70 camels defeated an army of 1000 men, 100 horses and 700 camels. Such was the measure of this victory that the cries of “Allāhu Akbar” and “Ahad, Ahad” (God is One) reverberate right to this very day and the ripple effects of the victory continue to shake the ground from beneath us. The timeless reminder of this victory is preserved for us in the Glorious Qur’ān when Allāh jalla wa’alā states:
“And indeed Allāh assisted you at Badr when you were weak, so be observant to your duty to Allāh so that you may be of the thankful ones. When you said to the believers ‘Does it not suffice you that your Lord should assist you with three thousand angels sent down’.” 
The battle of Badr strengthened the faith of the Muslims and was a decisive victory that shattered the forces of the enemy and firmly established the new State in Madīnah as a powerful spiritual, political and now, military force. It should not be forgotten that such was the importance of that decisive battle, that were it not for the courage, sacrifice, loss of limb and life of those noble and blessed companions on that day, we would not be here today to bear witness of Allāh.
Such was the month of Ramadān in the time of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). It was a time of purification, enjoining the good, forbidding evil and striving hard with one’s life and wealth to make the Word of Allāh the highest. The Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and his Companions (radiyAllāhu ‘anhum) passed through approximately nine Ramadāns together after the Hijrah. Those Ramadāns were filled with decisive events that shaped the course of history.
The Opening of Makkah
We should know that it was in this blessed month of reward, on the 20th of Ramadān, in the 8th year AH that the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) returned to Makkah not as the ruled, but as the ruler in the opening of Makkah (Fath Makkah), when he took it under the authority of Islām for the first time in the history of Islām. Makkah was conquered without a battle. He entered Makkah and treated the people justly. He personally went to the Ka’ba, pointed to the idols with his stick and recited the verse:
“The Truth has come and the falsehood has passed away; verily falsehood is sure to pass away.” 
After that, all the idols which the Quraysh used to worship collapsed on their backs, one after the other, and then they were burnt, broken up and disposed of. Thus, Makkah was completely liberated and the age of worshipping idols such as al-’Uzza, Suwā’ and Mannāt therein were over forever.
After the death of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), Muslims carried this Sunnah on and Allāh the Majestic used the believers to affect the course of history. Logic might tell you that battling whilst fasting is to result in a loss, but faith and reliance on Allāh transcends such flawed logic, it is greater than that. And so you find that rarely has a month witnessed so many battles for fighting for the sake of Allāh and the achievement of great conquests and victories of Islām like the month of Ramadān.
In the year 636CE corresponding to 15AH in the month of Ramadān, the Muslim army led by Sa’ad b. Abī Waqqās (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) consisting of 30,000 among which there were more than 700 sahābah and more than 70 veterans of Badr, set out to meet the Persian army in Qādisiyyah after the Muslims had made great strides into the Persian kingdom – this battle was set to pave the way for the demise of the Persian empire. The Persian army was very imposing, numbering around 100,000 and had within its ranks, huge elephants wearing coats of mail with their tusks wrapped in silk and velvet. The Muslim army looked less impressive but what they lacked in resources, they made up for in their faith and unshakable conviction and thus, the ground was set for the spectacle of battle between two formidable armies.
After an early setback, a great sahābi, Qa’qa’ (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) entered the fray having previously been posted in Syria. He joined the battle with a rousing cry of “Allāhu Akbar” which immediately uplifted the Muslims for they knew Qa’qa’ was a man as good as an army and a man about whom Abū Bakr (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) stated “No army can be defeated if in its ranks is the likes of this man”. Qa’qa’ brought down the great elephants and following this, the great Persian commander, Rustum was erased from the pages of history. The blood on the plains of Qādisiyyah had not yet dried when Sa’ad wrote a letter to the Khalīfah, ‘Umar (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) stating:
“Lo, Allāh has given us victory over the Persians… The Muslims met numbers chroniclers have not heard of but their numbers were of no avail to them and Allāh gave their possessions to the Muslims.” 
In the Ramadān of 31AH, the Muslims, under the leadership of Mu’āwiyah (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu), conquered the Christian islands of Rhodes, destroying the biggest idol in the world at the time, the Colossus of Rhodes (named after the Greek god named Helios), a statue 110 feet tall that sat on a 50-foot high pedestal of white marble near the harbour entrance of the city. This battle was known to be so ferocious that it is said that had a bird sought to fly over the plains of this spectre, it would not pass to the other side without being cut into a thousand pieces from the meeting of the swords and the volley of arrows.
By 92AH, Islām had spread across North Africa, Persia and Shām. Al-Andalus (Spain) was under the tyrannical rule of King Roderic of the Visigoths who persecuted, oppressed and imprisoned the Jews and Christians alike. According to the chronicles of history, a Christian chief called Julian who had fled Spain called upon the Muslims across the shores for help. The Umayyad governor of North Africa, Mūsā b. Nusair, responded by sending his courageous General at the head of 12,000 troops who landed at a point close to the huge rock which dominates the entrance to the Mediterranean. In Ramadān of that year, they were confronted with an army led by Roderic himself amounting to 90,000. There was an aura of fear and scepticism amongst the Muslim flanks; upon knowing which, the General ordered his loyal men to burn all the ships that had carried them here and were their only source of a safe journey back home. That man, that fearless leader was called Tāriq b. Ziyād. Once all of the ships were burnt, Tāriq addressed his soldiers and said:
“Brothers in Islām! We now have the enemy in front of us and the deep sea behind us. We cannot return to our homes, because we have burnt our boats. We shall now either defeat the enemy and gain victory or die a coward’s death by drowning in the sea. Who will follow me?”
The army burst with great enthusiasm to meet the enemy and Allāh manifested a clear victory over the forces of tyranny and oppression and they conquered Spain. The place where he landed was named Jabal al-Tāriq by the Muslims, later twisted to what we know today as Gibraltar. That little name is a reminder of our glorious past and the heroic man who rose to the heights of courage on wings of faith and self-belief.
A divided Islāmic world offered feeble resistance to the Crusaders who had invaded and consolidated their hold on the lands surrounding al-Quds containing Islām’s third holiest site, Masjid al-Aqsa. The warring Muslim parties did not take the Crusader invasion seriously at this stage. After almost 100 years of occupation, in the words of Imām al-Dīn al-Khatīb: “Allāh renewed Islām after it had declined and strengthened it after it had grown weak” through Nūr al-Dīn and then by the man of the hour, perhaps the most celebrated of Muslim soldiers in the history of Islām, Salāh al-Dīn Ayūbi, who threw down the gauntlet to the invading Crusaders.
After a number of battles, the decisive battle once again, as many times previously, took place in the blessed month of Ramadān in the year 582AH at the battle of Hattīn. Leading up to this battle, one of the crusader kings, Renaud treacherously attacked a Muslim caravan during a period of truce. He seized these people, put them to torture, threw them into pits and imprisoned some in dungeons. When the prisoners objected and pointed out that there was a truce between the two peoples, he remonstrated: “Ask your Muhammad to deliver you”. The battle of Hattīn which then followed, is considered by many to be the key to all the Muslim conquests against the crusaders and represented the period that the crusader tide began to recede which eventually resulted in the liberation of al-Quds on the 27th of Rajab, which was said to have coincided with the Night Journey of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).
The very first jummu’ah khutbah (Friday Sermon) delivered in Jerusalem following its liberation has been preserved for us until this very day began with a verse which was indeed apt for the magnanimous occasion:
“So the people that committed wrong were eliminated. And all the praises and thanks be to Allāh, the Lord of the worlds”. 
One of the names and attributes of Allāh is al-Rāfi ‘The One who raises’ and it was in the blessed month of Ramadān in the battle of Hattīn that Allāh raised Salāh al-Dīn’s status among the greats of this noble Ummah. And thus, Salahaddīn fulfilled the saying of someone who once said to his mother while she was pregnant with him that “in your womb there is one of the weapons of Allāh”.
Fierce mounted warriors swept out of Mongolia, laying waste to every city that refused to surrender. In 656 AH, they unleashed their fury against Baghdād and breached its walls. They murdered and pillaged for a week – some estimates say that as many as 1,800,000 were killed. The whole IslāmIc world trembled in fear of the Mongols. This was such a decisive blow that for the first time since the very early stages of the faith at the time of Badr, there was a real fear that Islām and Muslims could be wiped off the face of the earth.
Amongst all this doom and gloom and when Muslims were in a real position of weakness, fear and apprehension, Allāh raised for the Ummah His servant, Saif al-Dīn Qutuz who was a Mamluk (Mamluks had served as soldier-slaves for the Ayyubid sultans of Cairo). He united the Muslims, prepared them to fight, raised the necessary money and the army was mobilised to engage in the battle to defend Islām, its followers and lands, and to fight the usurping aggressor. Amongst the many renowned scholars who had encouraged the Muslims to unify behind Qutuz and prepare for the battle was the great scholar, al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salām.
Lying between Qutuz and the Mongols, however, was another enemy of the Muslims—the crusader forces that had come to Palestine to reclaim the “Holy Land” for Christendom. From them, Qutuz sought safe passage and the right to buy supplies in order to engage the Mongols in war in Palestine. The crusaders consented. Qutuz, after all, was the only hope the crusaders had of ridding the area of the Mongols, who were as much of a worry to them as they were to the Muslims. As a result, the stage was set for a decisive clash between the Muslims and the Mongols. In the month of Ramadān, on Friday the 25th in 658 A.H was the infamous battle of Ain Jālūt.
Qutuz told his army to wait until they finished the Jummu’ah Salāh, “Do not fight them until the sun passes the middle of the sky, the shadows appear and the winds stir, and the preachers and people start to implore Allāh for us in their prayers,” and thereafter, the fighting began. Among the army of Qutuz was his General, Beybars, who would in time carve his own name into the honorary roll of warriors. By the Grace of Allāh, they achieved their victory. The invaders were defeated and the whole of the world sighed in relief and stood in awe at the remarkable achievement of these noble sons of Islām. This was the first Mongol defeat since they had launched their westward thrust out of Mongolia 43 years earlier. Never again could they return with such thrust as they had done and in time, their descendants converted to Islām and began another glorious chapter in the history of Islām.
This was the spirit of Ramadān that enabled our righteous forefathers to face seemingly impossible challenges. It was a time of intense activity, spending the day in the saddle and the night in prayer while calling upon Allāh for His mercy and forgiveness.
We see that the history of Islām is replete with lessons that illuminate the road of the believers where kingdoms and nations rose and fell, armies marched west and east and still the sun of Islām did not set on the world but rather it continued to shine.
Today, the Muslim world is faced with imperialist occupation, military aggression, widespread corruption and oppressive rulers. In such times, we ask that Allāh raises a group of believers who walk in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), the illustrious Sahābah, Tāriq b. Ziyād, Qutuz, Salāh al-Dīn and the other countless heroes of Islām who dazzled the world and changed the course of history.
We have seen that history bears witness to the fact that the power of Ramadān is that reputations are torn up and transformed, legacies are gilded and legends are born. It is easy to witness the current state of the suffering of Muslims as we have seen recently in Gaza, but let the above stories serve as a means of hope. May Allāh make this Ramadān a turning point in the Islamic history and make it join the months of victory. Āmīn!
- Al-Qur’ān 3:123 -124
- Al-Qur’ān 17:81
- Tabari, Vol 3
- Al-Qur’ān 6:18