Battle of the Trench

Hajjah Amina bint `Ayesha

Site of the Battle of the Trench

As mentioned before, the unbelievers were trying to raise a united force of all the important Arabian tribes against the Prophet Muhammad (s). In particular, the tribes of the Bani Nadir and Bani Qaynuqa who had been exiled from Madinah on account of their assassination attempt on the Holy Prophet (s) did not cease working against Islam and trying to harm the Pride of the Worlds r.

These dangerous enemies met at Khaybar, which became a nest of intrigue and mischief making. The heads of the unbelievers, such as Sallam ibn Abi-l-Huqayq, Huyayy ibn Akhtab, and Kinana bin Abi-l-Huqayq went to Mecca and conspired with the chiefs of Quraysh. They came with a suggestion, which was more than welcome to the Quraysh and which met with enthusiastic approval.

They said, “There is only one means left to us in order to eliminate Muhammad (s), and that is to march on Madinah with combined forces. What do you say to that?” The chiefs of the Quraysh replied, “Whatever is necessary and required, we are ready to do it.”

The chiefs of Bani Nadir then went to Ghatafan and told them of their plan to strike out against Muhammad (s), and elicited their support, promising them half of the revenues of Khaybar, should they agree to be their accomplices in the struggle against Muhammad (s). They also made the Bani Asad who were allies of the Ghatafan participate in this campaign. The Bani Sulaym were related to the Quraysh by blood-ties, hence they too were obliged to join.

The leaders of the Quraysh gathered at Dar-un-Nadwa. They decided to oppose the Prophet of Allah (s), who preached the religion of Allah and proclaimed the unlawfulness of idol worship and the principles of justice and honor. They declared war against Muhammad (s) whose pure heart beat with compassion for all of creation. The fortunes of Islam were to be assailed by grave danger. A force of thirty thousand men now stood assembled against the band of believers.

It was in the fifth year of the Hijra in the month of Dhul-Qa’da that the enemies of God marched against the Muslims. The Quraysh army comprised four thousand men and fifteen hundred camels. The standard-bearer was ‘Uthman, the son of Abu Talha. At a place named Marr-al-Zahran the army coming from Mecca joined forces with the contingent of Ghatafan coming from the Najd under the command of the chief of the Bani Fazara, Uyayna bin Hisn. The leader of the Bani Murra, Harith ibn ‘Awf joined them there as well. The army of the Bani Asad under the command of Talha, and that of the Bani Sulaym and the tribes of Ashja’ had united their forces and came to meet the army. The army of the Arabs thus consisted of three divisions: firstly, the division of Ghatafan fighters under the command of the famous leader Uyayna ibn Hisn; secondly, the Bani Asad under command of Talha; thirdly, a troop of tribesmen allied to the Quraysh. The army’s supreme commander was Abu Sufyan.

When Muhammad (s) heard of these war preparations, he gathered all his Companions to discuss how they should meet such a tremendous force. Salman al-Farsi (r) was familiar with tactics of war from his country of origin. He spoke up at the gathering, saying, “Oh Prophet of Allah (s), if you permit, I will set forth how we ought to proceed in this battle. This time we are the defenders of our city, and in defensive warfare trenches have been used with great success. Therefore, we should dig trenches all around the city of Madinah.” Salman’s suggestion met with approval and he was made general commander in the Battle of the Trench.

Oh Traveler on the Road to Truth! Since the name of Salman al-Farsi (r) has been mentioned, I cannot pass on without adding a few words about this noble personage. Salman was of Persian origin and had set out on the search for Truth at a tender age, when hardly more than a boy. In this cause he left his homeland and searched far and wide for a teacher to lead him to his goal. He came in contact with a number of Christian ascetics and holy men, and he learned from them about the anticipated coming of a new prophet. By the time Islam was revealed, Salman had fallen into slavery and was working for his master at Madinah. It was there that he found what he had been seeking. He met the Holy Prophet (s) and was drowned in the love of him. Later he experienced the rare distinction of being granted this special privilege by the Holy Prophet (s); he reached a rank and a station higher than we can imagine, in that he was singled out in the Holy Prophet’s utterance:

“Salman is of my household.”

How lofty a station, how elevated a delight, to be raised to the station of a member of the Prophet’s r household, a truly majestic gift! May the Almighty grant him his intercession, Amin.

Mosque of Sayyidina Salman al-Farsi (r), at the location of the Battle of the Trench.

The following event served as occasion for this utterance of the Prophet Muhammad (s):

A verbal controversy had arisen between Salman al-Farsi (r) and one of the noble companions of the Prophet (s), on account of which the companion was somewhat hurt and offended. Some time later, this companion challenged Salman before a gathering of the companions with the intention of shaming him before them. He began asking all those present about their family tree and lineage. For it was one of the characteristics of the Arabs of the Jahiliyya (the Age of Ignorance, the time before the revelation of Islam) to take great pride in their lineage and they competed with each other in noble descent. After the revelation of Islam, however, this custom was renounced, and preference and rank was attributed to him who excelled not through noble descent, but through piety. As set forth in this holy verse,

Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most godfearing of you. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.  (The Apartments, 13)

That is to say, Allah Almighty gives preference to him who excels in pious veneration and awe of the Lord and who shows the most mercy and compassion towards Allah’s creatures.

As they were all recounting their lines of descent and the greatness and importance of their fathers and forefathers, they would ask, “How do they call you, what is your patronymic?” The question was put to ‘Umar who answered:

“I am ‘Umar, the son of al-Khattab!”

Salman al-Farsi sat there, his head bowed, his eyes damp with tears, his heart filled with tenderness. “They call me ‘Child of Islam’,” he answered, thereby demonstrating how faith had taken possession of all aspects of his life. When those present heard these words, it was as if fire fell into their hearts and they repented of their talk and their tactless questioning, and the questioner began to weep.

The Guardian of the Holy Law, ‘Umar, then said, “Let none of us ever ask such unsuitable questions again. Should Salman ever have to repeat his answer to this question, we shall all of us burn.” The other companion turned to Salman and pleaded with him to forgive the questioner.

When word of this reached the Holy Prophet (s), he called his companions and said to them, “Salman is of the people of my household,” and Salman was henceforth known as belonging to the company of Muhammad (s).

Oh you who travel the Road to Truth! As we delve into the source of Islam, we find that among all the noble companions who traveled on the high road of Islamic teaching and under the shadow of Heavenly Ascent, the group traveling at the greatest speed were always the slaves. This is because their worldly fortunes were so discouraging, they were forlorn strangers in this world of semblance, and they were of the broken-hearted.

Allah Almighty has proclaimed:

“Verily, I dwell in the hearts of the broken-hearted.”

Now, among the noble Companions of the Prophet (s) who were with Salman al-Farsi (r) there was one named Hilal. This companion was the slave and the groom of a rich man, who was also a companion of the Prophet (s). One day this honored companion fell ill and was laid low with a raging fever. The angel Jibra’il came to the Prophet Muhammad (s) with a message from Allah Almighty, saying, “Oh Prophet of God, arise, the Lord sends you His Salams. ‘One of My servants is ill’, He will have you know. ‘Let My Beloved go and visit My servant for My sake, as for his own, and let him enquire about his well-being.’”

Immediately the Holy Prophet (s) arose that his faithful companions wished to learn his intended destination. Muhammad (s) mentioned the name of the house he was instructed to visit, and the companions rushed ahead to alert the people of that house of the blissful advent of the Holy Prophet (s), as was their habit and custom. When they gave the good tidings to the head of the household, he at once began to prepare to receive the Holy Prophet (s). He rose to meet him at his gate, saying, “Welcome to you, oh Prophet of Allah (s), what great honor and blessing you bring to my house!” The Holy Prophet (s) however answered, saying, “No, it is not to you I have come. Where is Hilal?” His owner thereupon said, “I don’t know, oh Prophet of Allah. If you will permit, I will send someone to fetch him.” The Prophet said, “It is because of this, because you do not know where he is, that I will not enter your house. I have come here upon Divine Command. I know where Hilal is, open the door of the stable, there you will find him lying ill, and it is there that I will visit him!” The slave’s owner then said, “Oh Muhammad (s), by your leave, I will have him brought out of there so that you may visit him.” “No,” said the Prophet (s), “when it was time you should have concerned yourself with him and have had him brought out of there. Now it is too late for that, for I have been ordered to go and visit him where he is. So, open the gates of the stable for me, quickly!”

The gate was opened. From his excessively high fever Hilal was quite beside himself. As soon the Holy Prophet (s) entered the stable, Hilal (r) came to and exclaimed, “Oh my Lord, where am I? I perceive the fragrance of Thy Beloved, it is the scent of Mercy that envelopes me!” and he sat upright and looked about.

The Holy Prophet (s) said to him, “Oh Hilal, do not tire yourself, I have come to see you.” “Oh, Rasulullah (s),” cried Hilal, “how could you come here, to this lowly place. By your leave, let me crawl outside the stable, and let me take your orders there.” “No, Hilal,” answered the Prophet (s), “do not move from your place. My Lord has commanded me, in the Name of the Lord of all Beings, and in my own name, to visit you right here, in this place where you stay.”

Then the Holy Prophet (s) bent down and embraced Hilal (r) and kissed him, and they both wept.

Now, back to the scene of the war council: Salman’s suggestion was accepted, and the Muslims began to make preparations for the defense of the city. The Holy Prophet (s) together with Salman went to the site of the prospective trenches, and personally drew the demarcations of the ditches that were to be dug. Madinah was perilously exposed on the side facing Syria; all the other sides were made up of walled houses, which more or less formed one continuous city wall.

The Prophet (s) ordered men to begin the digging of trenches in groups of ten at the exposed front, which meant that each man had to dig about one yard of ground. The women, children and the infirm were sent to the fortified areas of the city. The Holy Prophet (s) himself participated in clearing away the earth, while he recited verses of poetry. Thereby he encouraged his companions to work with greater vigor and enthusiasm. The noble companions answered to this by saying, “Until our last breath we will continue to fight for your cause, oh Prophet of Allah (s)!”

The Holy Prophet (s) then made this supplication, “Oh Lord! Had You not guided us in Your Grace and Mercy, how sorry would have been our state! We would not have known about worship, nor would we have followed the path of guidance!”

Being experienced in the digging of such trenches, Salman ul-Farsi (r) was able to do the work of ten men. There was, however, one trench in which a big boulder obstructed the digging, and no one could split it. Neither the strength of Salman, nor the utensils the Sahaba employed made the slightest dent on this rock. It would neither budge from its place, nor could they split it at all. This incident was reported to Muhammad (s) who smiled and went over to the site himself. “Give the pickaxe to me,” he said. Then he began invoking the Divine Name, repeating the words, “Bismillahir-rahmanir-rahim,” the Bismillah, which is the key to resolving all difficulties, and the fundamental tool of the Muslims. As soon as his pickaxe touched the unmovable stone, it slid from its place and broke up into pieces.

The words of the Bismillah were the tool wherewith the Holy Prophet (s) performed the miracle of splitting the moon asunder, and whereby the fire of Nimrod was transformed into light. With them, Musa’s shepherds’ staff was invested with power, so that it could overthrow and obliterate Pharaoh’s claims to lordship.

Sparks flew under the blows of the Prophet (s) as he wielded the pickaxe, and the rock broke up into three pieces. It was shown to Muhammad (s) in a vision that Sham would soon fall under the domination of the Muslims, and he exclaimed, “Allahu Akbar! By Allah, at this moment I behold the red roofs of Damascus!” In this miracle he announced to the Sahaba that Sham would be given into Muslim hands before long.

A second blow of the axe, and in the flying sparks the Holy Prophet (s) perceived that Yemen would be given to him. He announced to his Companions, “Now I see the gates of the city of Sanaa…”

At the third blow of the axe in the Name of Allah, the rock turned into salt and ice. The Holy Prophet (s) again proclaimed Allah’s Greatness, “Allahu Akbar!” and said, “By Allah, I now behold the white houses of Mada’in belonging to the Khosroes. The arm-rings of Khosroes will be slipped onto Saraqa’s wrist.” He herewith manifested a plain visionary miracle.

Nowadays, fourteen centuries after the lifetime of this holy man, there are disrespectful people who ‑ from spiritual poverty ‑ claim that his revelations were due to what they assuredly refer to as “epileptic fits”, although they have never met the Prophet (s) face to face. Let us then ask them a simple question: what kind of invalid is he, before whose strength even the hardiest of men showed deference, and before whose judgment all respectfully deferred their own opinions? As for those ill-fated miscreants who refuse to confirm him, they are unwittingly proven false by the tidings he brought. The Book, the Glorious Quran which is Muhammad’s (s) teacher and which confirms that his judgments will never be invalidated through the passage of time. More and more it is now being read in Western countries.

For centuries, millions of people have followed in his footsteps, not from pressure of power or money, or on account of organized propaganda campaigns. They remember his name five times a day, at the very least. How many historical celebrities were affected by the love of the blessed Prophet (s)! What manner of epileptic is he, who is honored and revered by so many mighty rulers, men of valorous exploits, as well as men of reason and excelling in intellect?

While digging the trenches, the Holy Prophet (s) made this supplication for his Companions, the Noble Sahaba:

“Oh Lord, make them flourish in their eternal destinations!”

The trenches were completed within a period of two weeks. The enemy army was seen to be approaching. The Holy Prophet (s) assembled and mustered the army of the believers in the Unity of Allah, and led them outside of the city, behind the hill of Sal’. There they stood arrayed, waiting to face the enemy. Although the tribesmen of the Bani Qurayza were still guarding their neutrality, the Holy Prophet (s) knew very well that they were waiting for the first good opportunity, and in order to forestall any possible attack from their side, he sent Maslama bin Aslam to speak to them.

Prior to this, Huyayy bin Akhtab had made this request of the chief of the Bani Qurayza, Ka’b bin Asad: “We have here come together with Muhammad’s own clans people in order to shed his blood; do not let this good opportunity for erasing the notion of ‘Islam’ slip by!” To this Ka’b bin Asad replied, “I am fearful, for Muhammad (s) is true to his word, and mindful of the treaty we have with him.” However, he was only looking for ways to break out of this agreement. In the end, Ka’b bin Asad was snared into breaking the treaty with Muhammad (s). The Muslims were informed of this development.

The Bani Qurayza had a guarantee of safety from the Bani ‘Aws. Therefore, Sa’d ibn Mu’adh, Sa’d bin ‘Ubada, Abdullah bin Rawaha and Khawwat bin Jubayr (r) now went to the Bani Qurayza to warn them of the evil consequences of their breach of contract. But however much they tried to talk sense to them, they trusted more in the words of the idolaters, and refused to listen to these high-minded Sahaba. “We have no contract with this man Muhammad (s) whom you call Rasulullah, the Messenger of God. We do not recognize any existing agreement with him,” they rejoined.

This made things even more critical for the Muslims, for the Bani Qurayza, being of Madinah, would be able to show the unbelievers beleaguering the city where lay the weak points of its defense. As for the hypocrites within, they too were increasingly active and gaining strength. The Holy Prophet (s) said, “Let no mention be made of this the breach of contract by the Bani Qurayza in a way that might frighten the Muslims. Faith, Iman, makes all things crumble before it, and purity of intention, Ikhlas, obliterates all wickedness. Allah is the best of Protectors. He will suffice us, and the future belongs to the believers.”

In the Holy Quran this is referred to in these verses:

When they came against you from above you and from below you,
and when your eyes swerved and your hearts reached your throats,
while you thought thoughts about
there it was that the believers were tried, and shaken most mightily.
(The Confederates, 10)

The enemy then proceeded to attack, launching with full force a startling, all out assault. Again the destiny of Islam seemed to be endangered, and many eyes stared wildly in shock, many hearts throbbed in terror. Many thoughts crossed the minds of the Muslim soldiers, concerning Allah and what He had in store for them. This was a moment of great trial for the believers, in which they were severely shaken.

Beware, oh True Believer! Take full account of the meaning of this sacred verse, and remember that in this world of tribulation you are subject to trials at every moment!

The hypocrites were not able to stand the menace of this war in the way the true Muslim fighters did. One by one they came to the Holy Prophet (s) with some form of excuse and requested permission to leave the battlefield, professing concern for their families and children. Allah Almighty informed His Holy Prophet (s) of their true motivations for fleeing the battleground.

As they came face to face with the powerful army which had come to destroy the religion of Islam and its noble Prophet (s), the true believers ‑ whose love belonged to Allah Almighty and whose sincere devotion was with their Prophet Muhammad (s) ‑ stood unwavering in their faith and their complete reliance on the wisdom of the Divine Decree, as transmitted to them by the Prophet of Allah (s), and attested to their surrender in a way that stupefied those who had not yet tasted the sweetness of true faith. “This is what Allah and the Holy Prophet (s) have promised us, and assuredly Allah and His Prophet (s) are true to their word,” they firmly spoke, thereby passing this very harsh test of faith.

The siege lasted a full twenty days. The Prophet’s companions frequently went without food for days. As the siege wore on, it increased in severity. The enemy made every attempt to cross the trenches, but did not succeed. The enemy troops tried to breach the trenches and enter the quarter of the women and children, the infirm and aged.

The Prophet (s) himself appointed his commanders, and he himself undertook to defend the most dangerous parts of the front, thinking that perhaps the Ansar would be anxious about this development. Sa’d ibn ‘Ubada and Sa’d ibn Mu’adh of the Ansar heard of this, and they went to the Prophet Muhammad (s) in order to reassure his noble concern, saying to him, “Oh Rasulullah, Beloved of the Lord! You have propounded to us Allah’s Will and have given us the benefaction of Islam! You are ever the pinnacle of our joy! The Ansar have no life of their own, all their lives belong to you ‑ so have no worry for us!”

These words brought tears to the eyes of the Holy Prophet (s) which were as windows to the Truth. He bowed down in prostration and prayed, “Oh Lord! Send Your Divine Support upon this small band of Muslims who believe in Your Unity! If it be Your Will, send against their foes an angelic army, or turn the elements of nature that follow Your Divine Command against the enemy. Fulfill Your Promise to me, however You choose to do it!” When he raised his head from his Sajda, he turned to his friends and said, “The enemy may do whatever he likes, the Lord Almighty is on our side!”

But the hypocrites realized the peril of the situation, and when they met a man whose faith was yet new and tender, they would say, “Muhammad (s) has promised us the treasure troves of Khosroes, the gardens and pavilions of San’a, the mansions of Caesarea, did he not? Now we have for days endured this siege behind these trenches, as we have hitherto not experienced. Yet we have not taken even a single step toward the promised goal.” With words such as these they sowed poison seeds into the hearts of the newcomers.

The unbelievers changed the commander of their forces every day. Finally, with winter setting in, they grew tired of waiting and they were running out of fodder for their animals. Therefore, they decided on one final concerted effort, staging an all-out offensive in which different divisions attacked together in one general assault.

The first to break through the trenches on horseback was the famous Arab warrior ‘Amr ibn ‘Abdu Wudd, before whose strength everyone trembled. He was an old man of ninety who had been injured at Badr and who had sworn not to comb his hair until he had taken his revenge. Behind him came the brother of ‘Umar (r), Dirar ibn-al-Khattab, Hubayra bin Abi Wahb, and Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl, each one of whom was the equivalent of an army. Beating their horses to exert the utmost effort, they suddenly dashed through the trenches at their narrowest part. Abu Sufyan and Khalid ibn-ul Walid came to the edge of the trench to assist, but as they could not cross it, they contented themselves with being onlookers.

But ‘Amr ibn ‘Abdu Wudd dashed ahead of his companions on horseback, looking for the Holy Prophet (s) and yelling all the while, “Where are you, who started all this business of ‘La ilaha illAllah’? Who wishes to destroy all inherited tradition by this claim of One God only, and resurrection after death? I have come and I am ready! I challenge you to send me a man who will fight me, send out one your fighters!”

The Holy Prophet (s) looked at his men and asked, “Who will step forward and fight him?” Even though all the great Sahaba were assembled there, no one wanted to go out and meet this challenge, for this ruffian was known as a fierce warrior who was capable of single-handedly throwing a whole company in disarray. Therefore, all were hesitant to volunteer and none stepped forth.

But let it not be assumed that the Noble Sahaba hesitated because they were loath to give up their lives – never! Each one of the Noble Companions would gladly have been the first to surrender his soul for the sake of Muhammad (s), all of them fully aware of the merit of a martyr’s death. With the greatest pleasure they would have performed this duel in his blessed presence, until their cloaks fell off their backs. No, the reason for their reservation was this: if any one of them rose to meet the challenge and was martyred without having killed ‘Amr, this would greatly strengthen the morale of the infidel army, while weakening the resolve of such ditherers as were under the influence of the hypocrites, increasing the fear in their hearts. Some of the Sahaba even went out to battle without their armor, and when asked why they answered, “Those who love their Lord Creator fear not death!”

The Prophet’s (s) general, Ali (r) who was still quite young at that time, stepped out in answer to the Prophet’s (s) question and said, “Oh Rasulullah (s), I will go forth and fight this fellow.” But the Prophet (s) answered, “No, Ali, this fellow is ‘Amr! Sit down!” Again ‘Amr yelled, taunting them even louder this time, “I thought you were all hungry for Paradise? So there is none of you wishing for its joys now?” The Inheritor of the Prophet (s), Ali again spoke up, saying, “Oh Holy Prophet (s)! And even if he is ‘Amr, give me permission to go and fight him!” But the Prophet (s) declined and insisted that he remain seated. Then the infelicitous challenger attacked the Prophet (s) with sordid speech. Now the Lion of Islam, Ali the Victor, the son of Abu Talib could restrain himself no longer. “Oh my Noble Prophet (s)! I beg your permission! At least let me prove that I am his equal!”

Replica of Zulfiqar, sword of Sayyidina ‘Ali (r).

Everyone’s eyes filled with tears and hearts beat in alarm, when the husband of Batul (Sayyida Fatima) rose with such firm determination. Even the Holy Prophet (s) could no longer restrain him, but he did strip off his own coat of mail and invested Ali with it. With his own hands he girt him with the sword called “Dhul-Fiqar”. Both Heaven and earth stood silent as they watched Muhammad (s), the interpreter of the Lord of Unity, perform this ceremony on Ali (r). Then the Holy Prophet (s) prayed over him, kissed him on the forehead and sent him out against ‘Amr.

Ali stepped out onto the battleground on foot, whereas ‘Amr was mounted. In great suspense, the whole of creation stood watching the scene that was about to unfold, the contest between these two armies: between the hero who confirmed the Unity of Allah and him who denied it, between the Friend of God, the human lion, and the enemy of God, the uncouth champion of idolatry and spiritual darkness.

It was ‘Amr’s custom to say to his opponent at the outset of a contest, “I grant you three wishes!” When he saw Ali coming to meet him, true to his habit he said, “You who are coming out against me! Three wishes I grant you, ask of me whatever you wish!” Ali (r) replied, “Alright, my first wish is that you might come to reason and surrender (i.e. accept Islam). Think of your future in the everlasting abode.” “What,” roared ‘Amr, “you still persist in this solicitation!” “What else have I to persist in?” replied Ali. “How can you suggest such a thing to me? Do I look like one who surrenders (i.e. a Muslim)?” “If that is so, then leave the battleground.” “What! To become the mockery of the Arab women!” “Right then, come on and fight!” said Ali (r).

Upon this, ‘Amr let out long and loud peals of laughter, mocking Ali (r) and saying, “Such bravery and daring, I have never heard the likes of it in all my living memory! But tell me, do you know who I am?” Ali answered, “Only too well. You are ‘Amr, the enemy of God.” “And who are you?” “I am a servant of Allah, Ali the son of Abu Talib.” “Ah, woe is thee, oh Ali! I was a good friend of your father for many long years. I am therefore loath to shed your blood. Is there none among your uncles who is my peer, which they might have sent him out against me? I find it hard to raise my hand against thee!”

To this Ali (r) replied, “The Holy Prophet (s), the Beloved of Allah, has set his hopes on me, just as Abu Sufyan and the chiefs of the idolaters have pinned their hopes upon you. For me it will be a pleasure to shed your blood in the name of Allah Almighty!” These words of Ali pierced his misbelieving heart as if a pointed lance. “I will not condescend to fight you from atop my mount,” he said. “As you wish; we have exchanged words enough,” replied Ali, “let us not waste our breath, but fight if we must.” These words from Ali again painfully pricked ‘Amr’s false pride. He instantly dismounted and smote the leg of his own horse with a stroke of his sword, filling all the onlookers with terror. Then he fiercely came towards Ali. As Ali began to parry his strokes, the Muslims looked on with tearful eyes, for ‘Amr’s onslaught had cloven Ali’s shield in two and wounded his blessed head. Witnessing this, the Holy Prophet (s) began to pray, “Oh my Lord! My uncle ‘Ubayda fell a martyr at Badr, my other uncle Hamza fell at Uhud. There is no one left to me of my family but Ali, my father’s brother’s son. If he too is now taken from me… I beseech Thee not to leave me all alone.”

The Sahaba who heard the Prophet’s (s) supplication were moved to tears and shaken by sobbing. But now came Ali’s turn to reciprocate. He drew the sword that Rasulullah (s) had girded him with from its sheath, saying, “Oh my Lord! Make true what Thou hast promised to Thy Prophet (s)! I pray Thee to invest Thy Prophet’s (s) sword with Thy Power, so that my arm might manifest Thy Divine Might!” With a mighty cry of “Allahu Akbar!” he charged towards ‘Amr, and with a single sweep of his sword Dhul-Fiqar he dispatched him into the pit of eternal damnation.

Regarding this great event, the Holy Prophet (s) is to have said, “There is no more accomplished person between the Earth and the Throne than Ali. He is the leader of him who takes me to be his leader. Ali alone can acquit my debt.”

After this, Munabbih of the sons of Abdul-Dar rode out onto the scene of battle. He was met by Zubayr who smote him a stroke of his sword that clove this stubborn disbeliever in two. Whenever people said to Zubayr, “What a powerful sword you possess!” Zubayr (r) would reply, “It is not a question of the sword, it is a question of the arm that wields it!”

Then ‘Umar’s brother, Dirar ibn al-Khattab, Abu Jahl’s son Ikrima and Khubayr ibn Wahab strode out onto the field one after the other. When ‘Umar came out to meet Dirar, the latter fled the field. Ali and Zubayr went out to meet the other two, who lost their courage and fled also. As Ikrima was fleeing, he lost his helmet. The poet Hasan bin Thabit pursued him, declaiming derisive verses. Nawfal fell into a trench and cried out when they were pelting him with stones, “Kill me at least in a soldierly way!” Ali then leapt into the ditch and severed from his body the head filled with delusions of disbelief.

This was the most important day of the Battle of the Confederates. Even though the Muslims were content to have slain their most vicious enemies, and the unbelievers were distressed at having lost some of their strongest fighters, yet the Muslims were subjected to the rain of arrows and hail of stones hurled at them. So much so that the Pride of the Worlds had to pass up four times of prayer (later making up for them as Qada), as he could not absent himself from the fighting.

The next day the Confederates, i.e. the pagans and the unbelievers drew an even closer ring around the Muslims. The Bani Qurayza drew close to the place where the Muslim women were staying. They decided to attack from this front. One of the unbelievers managed to make his way up to the gates of the fort. Safiya bint Abdul-Muttalib noticed him and grabbed a tent pole and brought it down upon the unbeliever’s head. He fell senseless to the ground. When the unbelievers who were preparing to attack on this front learned of his death, they desisted from their offensive, deeming the place well defended.

The Muslims sorely felt their lack of numbers in those days. The Bani Qurayza united with the Quraysh and their arrows rained incessantly upon the outnumbered Muslims. However, it was the Will of Allah that the Muslims should prevail over the unbelieving foe. Upon the Command of the Almighty, the elements of nature began to strike back at the besieging army. Suddenly a great whirlwind arose and flattened the enemy’s headquarters, scattering their stores of grain. Allah’s invisible army had come and brought relief and comfort to the Muslims.

This event is mentioned in the Hoy Quran in these verses:

O believers, remember God’s blessing upon you when hosts came against you and We loosed against them a wind, and hosts you saw not; and God sees the things you do. (The Confederates, 9)

Before long, the enemy army’s beasts began to die and great dissent broke out between the Confederates consisting of the pagans, unbelievers and hypocrites. The conversion of Nu’aym ibn Mas’ud al-Ghatafani to Islam was cause for the greatest discord among them.

In Nu’aym’s heart a spark of faith had long been kindled, and when the campaign against Muhammad (s) began, he took counsel with himself, thinking, “Why should I stubbornly persist in my error? Should I deny myself the boon of following in the steps of Muhammad (s), who defends the rights of the weak, who demonstrates high moral character in utter disregard of any benefit to his own person, and who tells of the life to come when the oppressor will cry from woe, and the oppressed will shout from joy. But,” thought he to himself, “to this day I have not been received within the noble religion of Islam. What can I do for Islam, to make up for this loss and to gain acceptance?”

Nu’aym belonged to the notables of the tribes of the Ashja’, and he was the leader of a very numerous group of men. He decided that he must come to the aid of the Muslims with the forces he commanded. First he went to the head of the Bani Qurayza, Ka’b ibn Asad. He was sitting together with the chiefs of the tribes when Nu’aym entered. They received him with honor and began to speak of the war situation. After listening to them for a while, Nu’aym spoke up, saying, “I don’t know what you think of me, but I believe you know that I have feelings of closeness and regard for you, is it not so?” “No doubt this is the case,” replied the chief. “Is their anything you wish to say to us, oh Nu’aym?” “Indeed there is,” replied Nu’aym, “I am thinking of the outcome of this affair and I see your position as being dismal.” “How is that, what news have you heard?”

“No, I have no news to bring, it is just to say that this matter displeases me. Both the tribes of the Ghatafan and the Quraysh have come here and besieged the Muslims for days on end, but they are holding out and successfully pursuing their defensive tactics. The animals of the assaulting army are beginning to perish, storms and rain have brought down their tents, their grain stores are giving out and various rumors are coursing throughout the camp. Dissent is breaking out among the rank and file of this discordant mingling. This dissension needs be, will lead the troops to split up, as they grow weary of the siege. Eventually you will be left to your own devices. These are my thoughts. You will in that case fall straight into the hands of the Muslims which is bound to have dire results.” “These thoughts of yours indeed describe what is no remote probability, quite possibly the outcome will be such. However what can we do at this point, oh Nu’aym?” Nu’aym replied, “You must take some persons of Quraysh and Ghatafan as hostages. They will then of necessity remain steadfast until the end.” Ka’b ibn Asad answered to this, “You have spoken very truly, oh Nu’aym, you are right, this is what we ought to do.”

Nu’aym left them at that and proceeded straightway to the gathering of Abu Sufyan. There, too, Nu’aym was well received and greeted with familiarity. Nu’aym broached the subject without delay. “Have you heard already?” he said. Abu Sufyan, surprised, said, “Good news, we hope!” Nu’aym said, “The Bani Qurayza regret having broken their treaty with Muhammad (s) and have concluded a new secret treaty with him. They have found a way of gaining his pardon, and this is their ruse: they have promised to take hostages some of the nobles of Quraysh and Ghatafan and deliver them to the Muslims. That is what they have promised them. Bear this in mind: if there is any such suggestion by the Bani Qurayza, don’t be deceived into delivering hostages to them. It would be a great pity.”

Abu Sufyan was much worried by these words. In order to learn whether the Bani Qurayza were really considering such an action, he sent a man over to their camp to find out. He was to deliver the following message to them, “We have come to this juncture at the instigation of the Bani Qurayza and of your chiefs. You have led us into this pinch, and now you act coolly towards us. You desist from commanding a heightened offensive, and the siege might last long in this manner. Our losses are great; our beasts are suffering badly. Therefore, we ought to strike out tomorrow in a joint effort to end this whole affair as soon as possible. That is what appears to us to be the right course.”

To this the response was, “Tomorrow being the Sabbath, all work is forbidden to us. The day after we will be willing to do battle. But under one condition: that you send seventy of your foremost men to us as hostages, so that we might be certain that you would not desert us.” When the Quraysh and Ghatafan heard this reply, they said, “Nu’aym has indeed spoken truly,” and they answered the Bani Qurayza, “We will neither submit to you any hostages, nor will we ask any support from you. We shall return to our country and leave you in the hands of the Muslims. They will mete out your punishment to you.”

The Bani Qurayza on the other hand thought, “Indeed, what Nu’aym has told us is coming true, but it is too late to do anything about it.” They regretted having broken their contract with Muhammad (s), and leaving the battleground, they withdrew into their fortified dwellings. This caused a serious rift in the relation between the unbelievers and the Arab tribes. Even if the siege still lasted, it had lost a lot of its weight. Later, when it became known to the Holy Prophet (s) that Nu’aym had been the cause for this rift, he prayed for him. Therefore, oh true Believer! The word has a spirit of its own. At times it can bring life, at other times it can destroy. Do you not see how one command issuing from the Divine Throne can set thousands of men marching? Therefore, man must look not to the causes of a thing but to the Causer of causes. For the Divine Will is not in need of a cause, it is rather the causes that are in need of the Divine Will.

The siege wore on, and the Muslims were growing weary of it. One day at the ‘Asr prayer, the Mercy to the Worlds, Muhammad (s) entreated the Almighty, “Oh my Lord! Do not try this band of Muslims who assert Your Oneness with overly hard trials! They will never turn away from You, so expose not their faces to the enemy’s arrows for much longer!” No sooner had he completed his supplication than the signs of good cheer appeared on his blessed countenance. For the Highest Envoy of the Divine Dominion, the archangel Jibra’il had come to him to announce glad tidings: by Divine Command the wind, joined by forces of the Divine Regiment, was to turn against the unbelievers, rendering ineffectual all their rage and fury.

Indeed, before long, a wind of such force arose that it seemed to rip the earth apart. Not a thing could be seen, the whole world was plunged into the darkness of night and a great fear and loathing befell all men. In view of this situation, Abu Sufyan lost all hope of victory. Half of his army had deserted, and he said to himself, “There is no use in further persisting in this matter. Anyway, there is dissension between us and the Bani Qurayza. I’m leaving, and everybody else should also go home.” So speaking he turned and departed. In this way the storm clouds on Madinah’s horizons were scattered.

The Holy Prophet (s) rose and told his companions of this loss of morale in the enemy camp, and as soon as dawn broke, he sent Hudhayfa to spy out the enemy camp and bring word of their movements. Hudhayfa bin Yaman (r) went and spied into the enemy encampment, observing their disarray. As he was returning he encountered six horsemen who said to him, “Oh Hudhayfa, go and tell your friend that Allah has turned against his enemies to destroy them!” Hudhayfa said to them, “But who are you? I know you not!” The horsemen replied, “Just move along! Your friend knows who we are, he is informed by Divine Agency, your task is only to deliver this message to him.” When Hudhayfa presented all this to the Holy Prophet (s), he smiled so broadly that his teeth showed, and announced that these horsemen had been angels in the guise of human beings.

The army of the Meccan Arabs left behind them much of their bulk and dross, and plenty of grain that they had kept in store for fodder. All of this now fell to the Muslims. Even the twenty camel-loads of grain that Abu Sufyan had been sent by Huyayy, the head of the unbelievers, were confiscated by Muhammad’s (s) men.

In this war, there were five martyrs on the Muslim side: two of these were from the clan of ‘Aws, and three were from that of the Khazraj. One of these was Sa’d ibn Mu’adh, one of the most important of the Ansar whom the Holy Prophet (s) loved dearly. Sa’d had been seriously injured during the fighting. When the warring was over, the Prophet (s) had a tent erected in the courtyard of the mosque, especially for nursing his beloved companion. The Prophet (s) himself came and tended to him. The lady Rufayda who was a skilled nurse dressed his wounds under the Holy Prophet’s (s) supervision. However, this much beloved companion was beloved also by Allah, and his wounds would not heal. Thus he drank the cup of death and died a martyr’s death.

What bliss came to that lofty person whose wounds were nursed and tended by the blessed hand of the Holy Prophet (s) himself. May Allah Almighty grant him his intercession, Amin.

Aisha (r) relates: The mother of Sa’d was with us in the fort where we were staying. I was strolling outside of the walls of the fort when I heard footsteps. I looked and I saw it was Sa’d ibn Mu’adh (r) who was running out to the battlefield, his spear in his hand. When she saw her son, his mother said, “Sa’d, my son, you are late, go hurry! Give your life and soul for the sake of this religion! Do not forsake the Prophet (s), all that you have, offer it up for him!” Thus she saw him off. Sa’d’s armor was too small for him, so that his arms remained uncovered. An arrow shot by Ibn il-‘Arqa hit him on the arm and wounded him deeply. It was this wound that he died from.