WASHINGTON, DC, May 16, 2012 - Two battles on the English Channel, one in England and the other in France, forever altered the course of history. The first was the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066. The other was the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June of 1944.
There have been two other conflicts during the past 1,500 years, though largely unknown, that have had a significant impact on just about everyone who is alive today.
In the year 622, the Prophet Muhammad left his home city of Mecca with a small group of Muslim followers and established his base in Medina. The event is known as the Hijra, which is designated as the beginning of the religion of Islam.
Though Muhammad lived mostly in harmony with Jews and Christians during his time in Mecca, he was not regarded as a favorite son, a fact which greatly affected his beliefs for the remainder of his life after moving to Medina.
When Muhammad learned that a trade caravan was heading toward Mecca from Syria carrying a large amount of gold in March of 624, he decided to march against the traders. During their escape from Mecca, the Muslims left their all of their possessions behind, and Muhammad was determined to recapture his lost wealth.
Some of his Muslims followers were reluctant to attack because they did not want a war. In Sura 66, verse 9 of the Koran, Muhammad calls his peaceful followers “hypocrites” and condemns them to Hell. He also demands that they be harshly treated by true Muslims.
In an effort to avoid the conflict, Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan changed his course and moved to the east. He also sent a messenger to Mecca to request reinforcements for his small group. Mecca responded and dispatched approximately 900 men to aid the caravan.
Muhammad’s soldiers were outnumbered by three to one, but he relentlessly pursued the Meccans and eventually forced them into battle by deliberately choking off the wells that supplied their water. The Prophet’s army only had two horses and 70 camels. Most of his men were old, starving or sick and possessed little more than swords and spears to counter the Meccan attack.
Eventually, at the wells of Badr, the battle erupted, though it was little more than a skirmish by today’s standards. Despite overwhelming odds, Muhammad’s forces prevailed. In the aftermath, he had the severed heads of his enemies delivered to him and then walked among the dead Meccan bodies on the battlefield and chided them.
The Battle of Badr is one of the few battles that is specifically mentioned in the Koran, and it is regarded as the defining moment in the early days of Islam; the Muslim equivalent of D-Day. It was the turning point for Muhammad’s authority as a prophet, which he claimed was the direct result of divine intervention.
In the 8th Sura, verse 9, Muhammad states, “Remember ye implored the assistance of your Lord, and He answered you: ‘I will assist you with a thousand of the angels, ranks on ranks.’”
Only Muhammad actually saw the angels as stated in Sura 8, verse 50, “If thou couldst see, when the angels take the souls of the Unbelievers (at death), (How) they smite their faces and their backs, (saying), ‘Taste the penalty of the blazing Fire –‘”
Now convinced that his victory was divinely ordained, Muhammad continued his warring ways for the rest of his life. Had the Battle of Badr resulted in the Prophet’s defeat, it is very likely that Islam would not have survived.
More than a thousand years later, in the year 1683, another important battle took place in Vienna. Some historians believe the siege of Vienna was the turning point in the 300-year struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
A second theory is that the battle represents the final chapter in the steady decline of the Ottoman dynasty which marked the end of Muslim expansion to the west.
Either way, the outcome established the political power of the Hapsburg dynasty throughout the Holy Roman Empire and central Europe.
Strangely enough, more than 300-years later, there are lasting ramifications to this conflict that linger in the hearts and souls of people today, for we have all felt its significance. For fourteen centuries, the clash of religions has witnessed an on-going ebb. A major turning point in that confrontation came at the gates of Vienna in 1683 when the Islamic defeat ended a thousand year effort to conquer Europe.
Unlike the Battle of Badr, the siege of Vienna was a full-fledged military operation involving hundreds of thousands of combatants. It began in mid-July when the Ottoman army of about 150,000 men attacked an alliance of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth. After prolonged fighting that lasted two months, the Austrian/German/Polish garrison was in dire straits from the constant bombardment by its Turkish enemy.
At the 11th hour, under the leadership of King Jan III Sobieski of Poland, reinforcements of 40,000 men arrived at a hill outside Vienna. In just three hours the decisive battle was over when Sobieski punched a hole in the Muslim lines enabling his forces to march toward the city and strike them from behind.
It would take two more centuries for the Ottoman Empire to totally decline beginning with a withdrawal in the Balkans, Greece and Asia Minor. In the minds of the Islamic forces, the defeat was not only devastating but never forgotten.
And the date when that decisive battle began….September 11, 1683.
Coincidence? Perhaps, but not likely.
Osama bin Laden had a long memory and so do his followers. There is no end to the hatred, only lulls during dormant periods of when Islam is no longer in control or it is out of power.
Muhammad was a warrior. During the last ten years of his life, either he, or his armies, were involved in more than 80 battles. Even today, the conflicts in his name continue on a regular basis.
The Battle of Badr and the siege of Vienna may be little known events in the cyclorama of history, but their impact has had, and will continue to have, major significance for generations to come.
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