Battle of Ahzab (غزوة الاحزاب) -Siege of Medina
[Also known as Battle of the Trench (غزوة الخندق) & Battle of the Confederates]
(Shawwal, 5 AH)
Towards the battle of the Trench
The Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir were originally sworn allies of the Muslims in Madina but they secretly intrigued with the Makkan pagans and the Madinan hypocrites. They even tried treacherously to take the life of the Prophet while he was on a visit to them, breaking both the laws of hospitality and their own sworn alliance. God’s Messenger asked them to leave the strategic position which they occupied, about three miles south of Madina. They agreed to this but when ‘Adbullah ibn Ubayy, the chief of the hypocrites, assured them that his party would help them in case of war, the Banu Nadir demurred.
The Muslim army then besieged them in their fortresses and, seeing that neither the Makkan polytheists nor the hypocrites in Madina stirred a finger to help them, the Banu Nadir had to leave the city. They were dismayed but their lives were spared, and they were given ten days in which to remove themselves, their families, and such goods as they could carry. Most of them joined their brethren in Syria and the others in Khaybar.
While returning from the Battle of Uhud, Abu Sufyan had challenged the Muslims to another encounter at Badr the following year.1 But when the appointed time arrived, Abu Sufyan’s courage failed him to fight against God’s Messenger. As a face-saving device he sent an agent, Nu‘aym ibn Mas‘ud, who was then an unbeliever, to Madina who spread the rumor that the Quraysh were making tremendous war preparations and that they were gathering a huge army which no other power in the whole of Arabia would resist. However, when the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, reached Badr with an army of fifteen hundred fighters, they found there no one to fight with them. They stayed at Badr for eight days awaiting the threatened encounter, and when no sign of the Quraysh army appeared, they returned to Madina. This campaign was called Badr al-Sughra (Badr the Minor).
In the fifth year after the Hijra, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was informed that the desert tribes of Anmar and Sa’laba had decided to attack Madina. Accompanied by 400 fighters, he reached Zat al-Riqa’ and hearing that the enemy tribes had fled, returned to Madina.2
After this campaign, God’s Messenger marched upon Banu Mustaliq, a pagan tribe of Arabia. Banu Mustaliq had made preparations of war against the Muslims. With an army of 700 warriors, God’s Messenger attacked them and defeated them.3 On the way back to Madina, the intrigues of the hypocrites to bring about dissension between the Emigrants and Helpers were brought to naught. The verses sent down revealed all their secrets and how polluted their inner world was (al-Munafiqun, 63. 1-11).
The battle of the Trench
The Battle of the Trench took place after the campaign against Banu Nadir, who had been expelled from Madina for their treachery and who had mostly joined their Jewish brethren in Khaybar.
In the fifth year of Hijra, a group of those Jews including Sallam ibn Abi al-Huqayq and Huyayy ibn Akhtab, together with a number of Banu Wa’il, left for Makka. They urged the Quraysh to make war on the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and promised help and support.
The Jewish group then went to the tribes of Ghatafan and Qays Aylan and guaranteeing them help also, encouraged them to fight against God’s Messenger.4
These intrigues of the Jews resulted in the formation of a great confederacy against Islam. It consisted of the Makkan polytheists, the desert tribes of central Arabia, the Jews previously expelled for treacheries from Madina, the Jews (Banu Qurayza) remaining in Madina, and the hypocrites led by ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul. The last two constituted a treacherous network within Madina.
When God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, heard, through his intelligence service, of the gathering of the allies or confederates (ahzab) against him, and the strength of their desire to fight against him, he consulted his Companions, as he always used to do. It was their unanimous view that they should remain in Madina and fight from there. Salman al-Farisi suggested to God’s Messenger that they should dig a trench around Madina.
The trench took six days of feverish work to dig. God’s Messenger had divided them into groups of ten people and put them to a competition. It was a hard task and time was restricted; what was more, hunger struck them all; yet all the Companions worked enthusiastically. In order not to feel hunger, each fastened a rock around his belly. While digging they recited:
We are those people who
Took the oath of allegiance to Muhammad;
Therefore we shall fight in the way of God
As long as we live.
By God, if God had not enabled us to,
We would have neither been guided
Nor given alms, nor performed prayers.
Send down unto us calmness and tranquility
And make our feet firm if we confront the enemy!5
The Messenger, who dug alongside them, and had fastened around his belly two rocks, answered them with the couplet:
O God, the real life is the life of the Hereafter
So, forgive the Helpers and the Emigrants.6
Madina under threat
The allies advanced against Madina in the hope of destroying the Muslims in a battle to be fought in an open field. However, when they faced a new strategy of God’s Messenger, they took the first blow. Numbering around 20,000 men, they camped near the ditch. The Madinan fighting strength was no more than 3,000, and the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza and the Hypocrites were a source of weakness as they were treacherously intriguing with the enemy. As stated in the verses of the Qur’an (al-Ahzab, 33.12-20) when the Hypocrites first saw the enemy, they were already in a defeatist mood. Not content with disloyalty themselves, they tried to infect others, who made paltry excuses to withdraw from the fight. If the enemy were to gain entrance, they were ready to betray the city to the enemy.
God’s Messenger’s sagacity and military genius showed themselves once more during this war. He had kept them confined within the city and stationed them in a way that they could safeguard their homes against possible attacks from Banu Qurayza. It was the most critical moments of the war when Banu Qurayza sent a man into the city to spy into the conditions of the Muslim women. However, when this man was killed by Safiyya, the Prophet’s aunt, their hopes were frustrated.7
While the war was continuing with exchanges of arrows and stones, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, did not neglect to make diplomatic attempts to disunite the Allies. He contacted the leaders of Ghatafan and, offering them peace, urged them to withdraw with their people from the war. Nu‘aym ibn Mas‘ud was one of the leaders of the Allies, who before the battle, had come to Madina to sow discord; instead, he then began to incline towards Islam. During the battle, he secretly entered Islam and, ordered by God’s Messenger, proceeded to stir up Banu Qurayza. Nu‘aym set Banu Qurayza against the Quraysh by telling them that they would be abandoned by the Makkans and should refuse to help unless they were given hostages from the Quraysh. To the Quraysh, on the other hand, he said that Banu Qurayza would not fulfil their promise to help and would attempt to stall by asking for Qurayshi hostages to share their plight in the case of defeat. This stratagem succeeded. Dissension among the Allies grew.8
God’s Messenger, supported by the mountain Sal behind, had ordered a point in the trench to be made narrower. He had expected that leading horsemen of the Quraysh would try to cross the trench through that narrow spot. It happened as he had expected, and some of the most renowned warriors of the Quraysh attempted to cross the trench and volunteered for single combat with Muslim fighters. Among them were ‘Amr ibn ‘Abd Wudd, Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl, Hubayra ibn Abi Wahb, Durar ibn al-Khattab and Nawfal ibn ‘Adbullah ibn al-Mughira.
Boasting of his strength and fighting ability, ‘Amr ibn ‘Abd Wudd dismounted from his horse in the face of ‘Ali, who was ordered by the Messenger to fight against ‘Amr. ‘Amr advanced towards ‘Ali with his sword drawn. He brought his sword quickly against him but he got his sword caught in the shield of ‘Ali. ‘Ali, in return, struck a fierce blow against ‘Amr and the dust rose up around them. Then the words, Allahu akbar - God is the Greatest - were heard: ‘Ali had killed his opponent.9
Dirar, Hubayra and Nawfal were also killed by ‘Ali.10 The attempts of other horsemen or generals of the Quraysh to cross the trench were all brought to naught.
The siege lasted 27 days. It caused the Muslims much suffering, from hunger, cold, an unceasing shower of arrows and stones, and attempts and concentrated assaults to cross the trench, and betrayals and intrigues within the city. The Qur’an describes this situation as follows:
When they come 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 God; there it was that the believers were tried, and shaken most mightily. And when the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is sickness, said, ‘God and His Messenger promised us only delusion.’ And when a party of them said, ‘O people of Yathrib, there is no abiding here for you, therefore return!’ And a party of them were asking leave of the Prophet, saying, ‘Our houses are exposed’; yet they were not exposed; they desired only to flee. (al-Ahzab, 33. 10-13)
After a close investment of four weeks, during which the enemy were disheartened by their ill success and the believers proved their steadfastness and loyalty, there was a piercing blast of the cold east wind. The enemy’s tents were torn up, their fires were extinguished, the sand and rain beat in their faces, and they were terrified by the portents against them. They had already well nigh fallen out among themselves. Hudayfa al-Yamani, who was sent by God’s Messenger to spy on the movements of the enemy, heard Abu Sufyan’s shouting: ‘Come on, we are returning!’11 The Muslims were victorious by God’s help; there were hidden forces - the Angels - that helped them:
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. (al-Ahzab, 33.9)
The predictions of the Messenger
While digging the ditch, the Companions had been unable to break a huge rock and referred the matter to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. The Messenger struck the rock with the pickaxe in his hand. In the light of the sparks caused by the blow, he predicted: I have been given the keys to the Kingdom of Persia; my Community will conquer it. He struck the rock a second time and, again in the light of the sparks caused by the blow, declared: God is the Greatest. I have been given the keys to the Empire of Byzantium. My Community will conquer it.12
The Battle of the Trench was the last attempt of the Quraysh to destroy Islam and the Muslims. Following their withdrawal in defeat and humiliation, God’s Messenger declared: From this moment we will march upon them; they will no longer be able to raid us.13
Marching upon the Banu Qurayza
When the Allies were routed and turned their backs in flight from the Muslims, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, turned his attention to Banu Qurayza. They had betrayed their agreement with God’s Messenger and been allied with the Quraysh against the Muslims. They had also given asylum to the leaders of Banu Nadir, like Huyay ibn Akhtab, who had been expelled from Madina, and never refrained from conspiracies against the Muslims.
No sooner had God’s Messenger arrived home from the Battle of the Trench than Archangel Gabriel came and said to him: ‘I have not taken off my coat of mail, and I am going upon Banu Qurayza’.14
God’s Messenger ordered his Companions to march upon Banu Qurayza and had his tent pitched opposite their fortresses. If Banu Qurayza had asked the Messenger for forgiveness, he would have forgiven them, but they preferred resistance. The Messenger remained besieging Banu Qurayza for twenty-five days. At last they asked the Messenger for surrender terms, agreeing that they should submit to the judgment of Sa‘d ibn Mu’adh, who decreed the sentence according to the Torah. This was the end of the conspiracies of Banu Qurayza, as well as the Jewish presence in Madina.15
Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh was among the leaders of the Helpers. He had been wounded in the Battle of the Trench and prayed to God: ‘O God! If I am able to fight once more beside God’s Messenger, make me live. Otherwise, I am ready to die’. So, he died a martyr shortly after the Jewish conspiracies ended.16
1. I. Hisham, 3.94; I. Sa‘d, 2.59.
2. I. Hisham, 3.213.
3. I. Kathir, 4.178-9.
4. I. Hisham, 3.225-6; Waqidi, 441-3.
5. Bukhari, “Manaqib al-Ansar,” 9, “Maghazi,” 29; Muslim, “Jihad,” 123-5.
6. Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 9; Muslim, “Jihad,” 127.
7. I. Hisham, 3.230; I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 4.116.
8. I. Hisham, 3.239.
9. I. Hisham, 3.240-2.
10. I. Hisham, 3.235-6.
11. I. Kathir, 4.123.
12. I. Hisham, 3.243.
13. Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 29; I. Hanbal, 4.262.
14. Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 30.
15. I. Hisham, 3.249-51.
16. I. Hisham, 3.238, 262; I. Sa‘d, 3. 423-4; Tabari, Tarikh, 3.49.
Lessons from The Battle of Ahzab
Lesson 1: The Alliance had gathered around the Muslims all over the world, don’t think that that the battle of the trench has finished.
“O you who believe! Remember Allah(SWT)’s favour on you when all the forces came to you: We sent against them wind and soldiers who no one saw. Allah sees all that you did and will reward you for that.” [EMQ 33:9]
We must reflect upon this and take lesson for the alliances against the Muslims today. These are all alliances of evil, battles of Islam against Kufr, of Haq against Baatil.
Lesson 2: The attack will come from all directions ideological, economical, social etc.
“Behold! they came on you from above you and from below”
The attack is usually from all angles, in the present attack we can see that the media are whipping the masses into a frenzy of hatred for Islam and Muslim in order to lay the foundation for an alliance against Muslims. This is supported by rhetoric of fighting ‘Terrorism’ from the Western regimes like the US and UK and backed up by the puppet regimes in Muslim countries ensuring their public that it is not Islam but Terrorism and Usama Bin Laden that the US is after. In the meantime the Israelis have taken the chance to murder more Muslims and steal more land. To put the icing on the cake the West use the secular Muslims, like the MCB, to attack those who speak up against this oppression and tyranny.
Lesson 3: The Believers will be tested
“When all your concepts and ideas became confused and fear entered until your hearts reached your throats and you started to doubt (the victory)!” [EMQ 33:10]
“In that situation were the Believers tested: they were shaken as by a tremendous shaking.” [EMQ 33:11]
We must remember that we are all being tested by what is happening in Afghanistan. Not only must the Muslims in the region fulfil their responsibility of Jihad physically, likewise it is an obligation upon the Muslim masses to rise and defend Islam from being attacked, as this can be done by coming out and speaking the word of truth in front of the tyrant rulers.
Lesson: 4: There will always be Hypocrites in the Ummah
“And behold! the Hypocrites and those with weak personalities will say: “what we have been promised will not happen!” [EMQ 33:12]
In the same way people deny that the Muslims can never defeat the US-led alliance or that the Islamic Movements world-wide can ever establish the Khilafah or they say that it cannot be established except in certain countries; whereas Allah (SWT) asks us struggle to implement the Shari’ah, as a law and order, wherever we are.
“Behold! a party among them said:”Ye men of Yathrib! Ye cannot stand (the attack)! Therefore go back!”
There are always secular Muslims ready to put down those willing to stand up to the oppression and corruption telling them to be realistic, not to stir up trouble for the ‘peaceful’ Muslim community, who are all too ready to stand with murderers like the Pharaoh’s of today referring to them as ‘our Prime Minister’ or ‘our President’ and telling the media to stay away from and not to contact those who speak the truth.
“And a band of them ask for leave of the Prophet saying “Truly our houses are bare and exposed” though they were not exposed: they intended nothing but to run away.” [EMQ 33:13]
Sadly there are many among our community who would rather sell Muslims out and run away from any call for Jihad by saying that ‘There is no such thing as fighting in Islam…Jihad is only of the Nafs’ trying to save themselves by blaming the sincere Muslims for attacks on the Muslim communities in the US and Europe, for example, instead of the racist, fascist Western regimes.
“And if the enemy succeed they will be part of the fitnah (siding with the enemy against the Muslims)!” [EMQ 33:14]
“And yet they had already promised before that they would not turn their backs and a covenant with Allah must (surely) be answered for.” [EMQ 33:15]
“Tell them that running away will not profit you if ye are running away from death or slaughter; and even if (ye do escape) no more than a brief (respite) will ye be allowed to enjoy!” [EMQ 33:16]
Allah (SWT) asks us to take precaution, he does not tell us to side with the enemy or support them in any way. There is a vast difference between taking precaution and fearing from the enemy!
“Say: “Tell them to think, who can protect them from Allah if Allah wishes something for them?” [EMQ 33:17]
“Verily Allah knows those among you who are lazy and say to their brothers “Don’t go” and they don’t go but a few.” [EMQ 33:18]
There are those who would not only desist from taking any positive action against the perpetrators of atrocities themselves but also prevent others from doing anything as well. Just as we saw many Muslims in Pakistan and the UK demonstrating against the Murtad Musharraf’s decision to help the US-led alliance and Muslims preparing to go to Pakistan to help there, unfortunately we also witnessed those who condemned such actions ridiculing those fulfilling their duties and saying that ‘no one in Britain is sending anyone abroad’ thereby dampening the call of Jihad.
“They are stingy with you in anything good, they will look everywhere in fear but when it goes they will attack you again. Such of them do so because they have lost their Imaan and Allah has made all their deeds fall down: and that is easy for Allah” [EMQ 33:19]
These people are those who are stingy in commanding good and forbidding evil, stingy with their money (taking a salary from anything collected and calling it ‘administration’ expenses), even if you turn out to be right they will still attack you in order to justify why they stood against you in the first place!
“They think that the alliance will not leave; and if the alliance attacks they would wish they were far away and they will seek news about you (from a safe distance);
As opposed to this state of pessimism and defeatism the true Muslims remain strong and hopeful of victory from Allah (SWT). Indeed it was during this time when the Sahabah were building the trench surrounded by the alliance that the Messenger Muhammad (saw) predicted the conquering of Rome and Constantinople, just the way Muslims today, in the midst of the impending attack remain firm in their resolve and belief that the flag of Islam will fly over Downing Street and Muslims will even conquer the White House one day.
“And if they were in your midst they would fight but little.” [EMQ 33:20]
“Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah the best example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah.” [EMQ 33:21]
Let us never forget that the Messenger Muhammad (saw) is our only example to follow, not George Bush or Muhammad Ali Jinnah! The Messenger Muhammad (saw) never gave any credence to man made law, he never shared power with non-Muslims or believed in ‘Democracy’ or ‘freedom’, he never sold Muslims out to the enemies of Islam, he always made a clear distinction between the army of the Muslims and that of the non-Muslims, never allowing the Muslims to join the kufr Police or armies and never having any alliance with them (we wonder on whose side the misguided Muslims in the British and American armies are going to fight in the impending war!?). And he (saw) was the one who established the first Islamic State!
“When the Believers saw the allied forces they said: “This is what Allah and His Apostle had promised us and Allah and his Apostle told us what was true.” And it only added to their faith and their zeal in obedience.”[EMQ 33:22]
We have been promised by Allah several times in the Qur’an that the Jews and Christians are an enemy for the Muslims, what they say with their tongues is hatred (such as a ‘crusade’ of ‘good against evil’ by President Bush) but what they conceal in their hearts is far worse. We are told that if and when the disbelievers have authority over Muslims they will have no mercy, as in Iraq and Israel, Chechnya etc…and that the disbelievers will not be satisfied until they take Muslims away from the Deen of Islam.
“Among the Believers are men who have fulfilled their pledge to Allah: some have passed away and some are still to come: they will never change:” [EMQ 33:23]
“In order that Allah may reward the trustworthy and punish the Hypocrites. Maybe Allah will forgive the weak: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.” [EMQ 33:24]
“And Allah returned the alliance and saved the Believers. And Allah is full of Strength Able to enforce His Will.” [EMQ 33:25]
Just as the Jew-led alliance with Quraish planned and attacked the Muslims in the time of the Messenger Muhammad, today the US-led alliance are planning and attacking the Muslims in Afghanistan. Just as the Jews of the past lied to Abu Sufyan, the US and UK lie today that Islam and Muslims are not the enemy but that that they are fighting ‘terrorism’ and Usama Bin Laden. Just the way Imam Ali (ra) represented Imaan and Amru represented Shirk, today each Muslim is on one of the fronts of Islam and must make sure he/she protects it from any kufr, enjoining maoruf (good) and forbidding munkar (evil), making sure that he/she fulfils their duty of supporting the oppressed. Just as Bani Quraizah did not keep their treaty the puppet governments of US influenced Muslim countries have predictably sold-out the Afghans to the US.Let us digest the many lessons given to us by Allah through the battle of Ahzaab and the many other battles of the Messenger Muhammad (saw), such as Badr and Uhud, and put our complete and total trust only in Allah (SWT) with whom rests victory in this life and in the hereafter