Nuaym Ibn Masud

To protect the city, the Muslims decided to dig a ditch or khandaq. It is said that the ditch was about three and a half miles long and some ten yards wide and five yards deep. The three thousand Muslims were divided into groups of ten and each group was given a fixed number of cubits to dig. The digging of the ditch took several weeks to complete.

The ditch was just completed when the mighty enemy forces from the north and the south converged on Madinah. While they were within a short distance from the city the Nadirire conspirators approached their fellow Jews of the Banu Qur~yzah who lived in Madinah and tried to persuade them to join the war against the Prophet by helping the two armies approaching from Makkah and the north. The response of the Qurayzah Jews to the Nadirite leaders was: “You have indeed called us to participate in something which we like and desire to have accomplished. But you know there is a treaty between us and Muhammad binding us to keep the peace with him so long as we live secure and content in Madinah. You do realize that our pact with him is still valid. We are afraid that if Muhammad is victorious in this war he would then punish us severely and that he would expel us from Madinah as a result of our treachery towards him.”

The Nadirire leaders however continued to pressurize the Banu Qurayzah to renege on their treaty. Treachery to Muhammad, they affirmed, was a good and necessary act. They assured the Banu Qurayzah that there was no doubt this time that the Muslims would be completely routed and Muhammad would be finished once and for all.

The approach of the two mighty armies strengthened the resolve of the Banu Qurayzah to disavow their treaty with Muhammad. They tore up the pact and declared their support for the confederates. The news fell on the Muslims ears with the force of a thunderbolt.

The confederate armies were now pressing against Madinah. They effectively cut off the city and prevented food and provisions and any form of outside help or reinforcement from reaching the inhabitants of the city. After the terrible exhaustions of the past months the Prophet now felt as if they had fallen between the jaws of the enemy. The Quraysh and [he Ghatafan were besieging the city from without. The Banu Qurayzah were laying in wait behind the Muslims, ready to pounce from within the city. Added to this. the hypocrites of Madinah, those who had openly professed Islam but remained secretly opposed to the Prophet and his mission, began to come out openly and cast doubt and ridicule on the Prophet.

“Muhammad promised us.” they said, “that we would gain possession of the treasures of Chosroes and Caesar and here we are today with not d single one of us being able to guarantee that he could go to the toilet safely to relieve himself!”

Thereafter, group after group of the inhabitants of Madinah began to disassociate themselves from the Prophet expressing fear for their women and children and for their homes should the Banu Qurayzah attack once the fighting began. The enemy forces though vastly superior in numbers were confounded by the enormous ditch. They had never seen or heard of such a military stratagem among the Arabs. Nonetheless they tightened their siege of the city. At the same time they attempted to breach the ditch at some narrow points but were repulsed by the vigilant Muslims. So hard-pressed were the Muslims that the Prophet Muhammad and his companions once did not even have time for Salat and the Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers had to be performed during the night.

As the siege wore on and the situation became more critical for the Muslims. Muhammad turned fervently to his Lord for succour and support.

“O Allah,” he prayed, “I beseech you to grant Your promise of victory. O Allah I beseech You to grant your promise of victory.”

On that night, as the Prophet prayed, Nuaym lay tossing in his bivouac. He could not sleep. He kept gazing at the stars in the vast firmament above. He thought hard and long and suddenly he found himself exclaiming and asking: “Woe to you, Nuaym! What is it really that has brought you from those far off places in Najd to fight this man and those with him? Certainly you are not fighting him for the triumph of right or for the protection of some honor violated. Really you have only come here to fight for some unknown reason. Is it reasonable that someone with a mind such as yours should fight and kill or be killed for no cause whatsoever? Woe to you, Nuaym. What is it that has caused you to draw your sword against this righteous man who exhorts his followers to justice, good deeds and helping relatives? And what is it that has driven you to sink your spear into the bodies of his followers who follow the message of guidance and truth that he brought?”

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