All praise to Him, The lord of the universe. Peace and salutations upon the last messenger of Allah; Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was sent as a mercy to mankind.
Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,”Hold on tight to archery as this is better for you”. Or he said, “It is the best from your games”. [at-Targheeb wa at-Tarheeb]
Is it a coincidence that nearly every culture on Earth developed the bow and arrow independent of one another?
Every culture mastered marksmanship of using the bow and arrow throughout history from the era of ancient Egypt to the Ottoman empire, Roman empire, Persian empire also Eastern Asia. Even in the middle ages the British were known for their longbows. Existence of archery even predates these civilisations by thousands of years with historical proof and records.
Archery was a high noble act in all cultures. For instance in Eastern Asia in the Zhou dynasty, Archery was one of six noble arts. Confucius himself was an archery teacher.
Archery was widespread throughout the world in all ages. It was used in warfare, military advantages, sports and hunting. Archery started declining when gunpowder was introduced and soon became obsolete.
In the era of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), archery was very dominant. It was stressed upon to practice and learn this skill. The messenger himself use to encourage people, and also use to observe people competing with one another.
Narrated by Salama bin Al-Akwa:
The Prophet passed by some people of the tribe of Bani Aslam who were practicing archery. The Prophet said, “O Sons of Ismail ! Practice archery as your father Ismail was a great archer. Keep on throwing arrows and I am with Bani so-and-so.”
So one of the parties ceased throwing. Allah’s Apostle said, “Why do you not throw?” They replied, “How should we throw while you are with them (i.e. on their side)?” On that the Prophet said, “Throw, and I am with all of you.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, book 52, Number 148]
This hadith indicates that archery existed in the time of the prophet Ismail (peace be upon him) who was also an effective marksman. In another Hadith there is a clear indication of encouragement to practice archery:
Selected by Ad Daylami
On the authority of Jaabir who narrated that Muhammad (peace be upon him) said ‘Teach your sons the shooting of the arrows’.
The Sahabah used to practice archery regularly, they would have two targets on opposite end and they would shoot at one target and would walk towards the target to retrieve their arrows. Then they would turn around to shoot the opposite target. Even in their old age they never gave up on their practice.
Faqeem al Lakhmi told Uqbah bin Amer (Allah be pleased with them): “You are running between these two targets and you are at this old age!” Uqbah said: “If it wasn’t for some words I heard from the Messenger of Allah I wouldn’t have gone through this” The narrator asked what those words were, he replied: “Whoever learns target shooting and then abandons it, then he is not one of us – or he said, “has committed a sin” [Sahih Muslim]
Abu Huraira RA narrates the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said ‘ Learn the throwing of arrows and do not be averse to it, for the area between the two targets holds a garden of the gardens of paradise.
Archery was not considered as an useless or idle act which had no merits or rewards but rather the opposite.. It held many rewards to attain his pleasure and the pleasure of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Khalid bin Zaid (Allah be pleased with him) said I used to be good at archery and Uqbah would go out target shooting with me. One day I was reluctant to go out so he told me: “O Khalid, let me tell you what I heard the Messenger of Allah say. He said: “Allah admits three people into Paradise because of one arrow. The one who makes it, doing so with the intention of good, the one who shoots it and the one who hands it over to the archer. So go out and train in archery and in horseback riding. And I prefer you train in archery. Entertainment is appropriate in only three forms: Training your horse, playing with your wife, and archery. And whoever learns archery and then abandons it has rejected a blessing from Allah” [al Mussanaf – Musnad Abi Awnah – Abu Dawud – al Hakim (Thahabi agreed)]
Amr bin Absah (Allah be pleased with him) said we were laying siege to al Taif and I heard the Messenger of Allah say: “Whoever shoots an arrow for the sake of Allah will be rewarded like one who has freed a slave” Amr said I shot 16 arrows on that day. [Al Nasa’i – al Hakim – Tirmithi – Abu Dawud]
In the times of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) there have been great archers recorded in the Aahadith who showed great valor and skill with the likes of Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas who was the first to shoot an arrow for the defense of Islam.
In the battle of Uhud the messenger pbuh said:
“Irmi Sa’d… Fidaka Abi wa Ummi – Shoot, Sa’d… may my mother and father be your ransom.”
Of this occasion, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib said that he had not yet heard the Prophet promising such a ransom to anyone except Sa’d. Sa’d is also known as the first companion to have shot an arrow in defense of Islam. And the Prophet once prayed for him:
“O Lord, direct his shooting and respond to his prayer.”
The prophet joined both parents together and never did this for anyone before Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas.
In Todays world Archery is encouraged by health organisations as it works on your upper body strength, balance and co-ordination. Also beneficial for Mental health patients as it strengthens their ability to focus.
Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) had several bows:
the white bow (Al-Baidaa) taken from Jews of Bani Qainoqaa,
Al-Safraa (the yellow bow), taken from “Naba” tree whose branches are used in making bows,
Al-Zauraa, sometimes called Al-Katoum (the silent) due to its silent sound when thrown.
Al-Sadad (Straightness). It shot arrows very straight.
a quiver called, al-Kafur,
The bow of the messenger (peace be upon him) is preserved in Topkapi museum, Turkey.