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The Third Battle in History of Islam - Battle of Trench / Ghazwah Khandaq / Ghazwah Ahzab


The fifth year of Hijrah (Muslims emigration from Makkah to Madinah) was a foundation in the life of Muslims. Quraish and the Jews realized that getting rid of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) and his companions (R.A.) was impossible unless they all collaborate together in Ahzab (parties) in order to fulfill their aim. This was their only solution.

That was the idea of Hoyai Ibn Al-Akhatb the head of Bani An-Nadir, the Jewish tribe that broke its oath with the Prophet (S.A.W.) and was consequently driven out of Madinah. 

Call to Other Tribes against Muslims:

When Bani An-Nadir left Madinah they went to Khaibar and from there, Hoyai went to Quraish to meet Abu-Sufyan to collaborate with him in fighting the Prophet (S.A.W.). He was most welcomed by Abu Sufyan. Quraish leaders and Hoyai pledged collaboration and alliance in the Kaaba until they would kill Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.).

Hoyai then left to Ghatfan tribe that was the second power in the peninsula after Quraysh. He held the same deal with them before moving to Ashja tribe and other Arab tribes.  Can you how this man exerted all his efforts to support case that he knew to be false?  Look into our state and see how much effort we exert to support truth and righteousness!

Strength of Enemy's Army:

Their leader was Abu-Sufyan and the army consisted of 10,000 soldiers from different Arab tribes such as Quraish, Ghatfan, Ashja, Bani Sulaim and other Arab tribes. They decided to head to Madinah to abolish Muslims and Islam. Remember that the biggest army that faced by Muslims before was just 3,000 soldiers.

Prophet (S.A.W.) is Informed about Enemy’s Intentions:

Thanks to the intelligence service powered by Talha Ibn Obaid (R.A.) and Said Ibn Zaid (R.A.), the news reached Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) that the army would arrive to Madinah within 15 days.

Suggestion of digging Trench by Salman Al-Farsi (R.A.):

Prophet (S.A.W.) summoned Muslims to discuss the matter with them and consult them. He (S.A.W.) explained the whole situation in details. Companions (R.A.) knew that they had to plan, work, and exert effort within this doctrine. Salman Al-Farsi (R.A.), a man from Persia, suggested digging a trench, a plan that was applied in his country. Salman's (R.A.) idea was a good one because it conformed to the nature of Madinah.  As the east, west, and south sides of Madinah were naturally surrounded by pointed, rocky land, which no one can even walk on. Hence, they had to close the north part by the trench.

At the same time, the hypocrites started shaking the confidence of Muslims, "You are digging a trench because you are afraid of them". But Muslims focused on their plan. The trench was dug at the narrowest part between the two pointed rocky areas of the east and west.  The Prophet’s (S.A.W.) plan was to included the following:

- Staying inside Madinah.

- Digging the trench and staying behind it to protect the city, lest any of the enemies could cross the trench.

- Providing a safe place for women and children.

Digging of Trench:

The total number of Muslim warriors was 1500. Prophet (SAW) divided them into groups, each including 25 persons. Each group, led by a team leader, was responsible for a digging specific area, which they would protect afterwards. Hence, they would exert all their efforts in digging their area with quality. Abu Bakr Siddiq (R.A.) and Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) played the quality assurance role by ensuring that the required standards in the digging process were fulfilled. Prophet (S.A.W.) moved from one group to another, working with them to raise their spirits and encourage them all.  He worked more than any one of them, and held the hardest task of all: removing the dust and stones from the trench.

The Prophet’s (S.A.W.) companions (R.A.) were afraid and worried for many reasons.  They still had Uhud before their eyes; where 70 of their fellow Muslims were martyred. They were also worried that they would not be able to finish digging the trench before Quraish would arrive. Furthermore, Madinah was suffering from starvation at that time. Muslims used to tie a stone on their stomach to control the feeling of hunger, while Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) tied two stones out of severe hunger. Despite all these hard conditions, Muslims' morale was high; Hassan Ibn Thabit (R.A.) wrote poetry to raise their spirits even more. In ten days the trench was ready.

Arrival of Enemy’s Army and they were surprised:

The army of Ahzab (Quraish and the other tribes) came with ten-thousand soldiers and besieged Madinah. The Ahzab were greatly surprised to see the trench as it was not an Arab technique and they were not prepared for this. Prophet (S.A.W.) divided the companions (R.A.) into groups to defend the trench. The siege continued for twenty-four days and Quraish was waiting for just a moment of carelessness or sleep from the Muslims. However, the fifteen-hundred companions (R.A.) proved to be very careful and watchful during the twenty-four days of the siege.  

Violation of Treaty by Banu Qurayza:

Quraish could not pass through and found no solution. They considered communicating with Banu Qurayza (a Jew tribe in Madinah) to have them attack Muslim women and children from the south of Madinah. However, Banu Qurayza signed a constitution with the Prophet (S.A.W.) and according to the treaty, they were considered as citizens, had their rights and duties and were not to attack Muslims or help anyone to attack them. Quraish though that as the Jews would start killing children and women of Muslims, the Prophet (S.A.W.)  and the companions (R.A.) would immediately leave the trench and they would attack the Muslims from north and south.

Hoyai went to Kaab (leader of Banu Qurayza) to persuade him. However, Kaab, said he saw nothing but loyalty and justice from Prophet (S.A.W.). This shows clearly how the Prophet (S.A.W.) respected the concept of citizenship in the society.

Hoyai did not give up and kept persisting until Kaab agreed to betray the Prophet (S.A.W.) and Muslims. 

Prophet (S.A.W.) sends a Delegation to Banu Qurayza:

The news about Banu Qurayza’s intentions reached the Prophet (S.A.W.) who got so worried and sent Saad bin Maaz (R.A.) and Saad Ibn Ubadah (R.A.) to make sure of the news.

They asked Kaab, “O Kaab! Haven't you signed an agreement with the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.)?”
But Kaab replied, “Who is the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.)? Who is Mohammad? There is no agreement between us. We have torn it.”

Allah’s Revelation against saying of Hypocrites:

When the news spread in Madinah about treaty, the hypocrites (munafiqeen) said "how could Mohammad tell us we will conquer Persia and Rome while we are not even able to go to the bathroom out of fear?". Allah revealed Ayas that can be translated as:

“And [remember] when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is disease said, "Allah and His Messenger did not promise us except delusion, And when a faction of them said, "O people of Yathrib (Madinah), there is no stability for you [here], so return [home]." And a party of them asked permission of the Prophet, saying, "Indeed, our houses are unprotected," while they were not exposed. They did not intend except to flee. " (Surah Al-Ahzab: 33: 12-13)

The situation was extremely difficult and Muslims were getting frustrated because of the hypocrites talk. Allah says in Quran:

“[Remember] when they came at you from above you and from below you, and when eyes shifted [in fear], and hearts reached the throats and you assumed about Allah [various] assumptions. There the believers were tested and shaken with a severe shaking.” (Surah Al-Ahzab: 33: 10-11)

Safiyah (R.A.) Kills a Jew:

There has to be moments where the believers are tested and this was one of them. One of the Jews was sent to examine the fort where the women and children stayed.  Hassan Ibn Thabit (R.A.) was watching the fort.  Hassan (R.A.) was not a fighter, but there was no other fighter available to guard the fort. Safiyah (R.A.), the aunt of the Prophet (S.A.W.), told Hassan (R.A.) to kill the man to prevent him from getting back to the Jews with information. Hassan (R.A.) told her he could not kill a man, so this brave woman hit the man and killed him. She then cut his head and threw it near the forts of the Jews to let them know that Muslims were guarding the women and children's fort. 

Prophet (S.A.W.) talks with Ghaftan Tribe:

The Prophet (S.A.W.) then had to find an alternative plan. He (S.A.W.) went to Ghatfan tribe (one of the enemy’s tribe) asked them if they would return to their home, they will get one third of the crops of Madinah. They finally agreed, but the Prophet (S.A.W.) informed them that he (S.A.W.) must consult his companions (R.A.).  The leader of Ghatfan’s tribe said, “Aren’t you their leader?” The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Yes, but Madinah belongs to them, and I have to ask them.”

After consulting with his companions (R.A.), the Prophet (S.A.W.) told Ghatfan that the people of Madinah refused the compromise.

Ali Ibn Talib (R.A.) kills Amr Ibn Wadd:

After twenty-three days since the siege the situation was getting worse. The trench started to be exposed and Quraish began to approach.

Amr Ibn Wadd, who was a skillful fighter from Quraish, was the first one to get to the trench. He jumped with his horse in the trench and said, “Who will fight me?” Ali Ibn Talib (R.A.) stepped forward. The Prophet (S.A.W.) did not want Ali (R.A.) to fight Amr but as Ali (R.A.) insisted, the Prophet (S.A.W.) offered him his sword “Dhulfiqar” and asked Allah to help him. Ali (R.A.) and Amr got into an intense fight while the Prophet (S.A.W.) kept praying for Ali (R.A.) who was very dear to him. Eventually, Ali (R.A.) killed Amr and beheaded him, so the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Throw it at them so they would be scared.”

Severe Attacks of the Enemy:

After one on one fight between Ali Ibn Talib (R.A.) and Amr ibn Wadd, enemies threw a lot of arrows at the tent of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) during the besiege. The Prophet (S.A.W.) was standing in front of the tent with his armor on his body and his helmet on his head.

Hazrat Jabir (R.A.) narrates:

“That day, the polytheists fought us all day. They divided their soldiers into teams.  They sent a big group of soldiers under the command of Khalid bin Waleed where the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) was. They fought until late at night. Neither the Messenger of Allah nor the Muslims could have the opportunity to leave their places.” (Kitab Al-Maghazi by Imam Al-Waqidi: V:2, P:473)

The clash continued so intensely that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) could not perform the noon, afternoon and evening prayers of that day on time. The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), who did not damn even those who tortured and insulted him, damned them because they caused him to delay his prayers as follows: 

As Narrated by Ali (R.A.) that Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said:

‘On the day (of the Battle) of Ahzab we were diverted from the middle prayer, till the sun set. May Allah fill their graves or their houses, or their stomachs with fire.’
(The narrator is in doubt about" houses" and" stomachs".) [Sahih Muslim: 627 (c)]

Role of Nuaym Ibn Masud (R.A.):

A man named Nuaym ibn Masud (R.A.) from Ashja tribe went to the Prophet (SAW), declared his identity and became Muslim. The Prophet (S.A.W.) was very happy with him and advised him to go back and bring them news. Nuaym (R.A.), disguised himself as one of the non-believers, went to Banu Qurayza and told them that Quraish was not from this land, and so if they got bored and exhausted from the siege, they would leave Banu Qurayza alone in front of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) who would take revenge for their betrayal. He told the solution was to encourage Quraish to fight but take fifty of Quraish's leaders to guarantee that Quraish would not leave.

Nuaym (R.A.) then went to Abu Sufyan and told him that Banu Qurayza made an agreement with Prophet (S.A.W.) to bring him fifty of Quraish’s leaders to make peace with him. On the next day, Abu Sufyan contacted Kaab, the leader of Banu Quraiza, and asked him, “When do we attack?”. Kaab said, “Give us fifty men first to ensure your seriousness in the fight.”  Abu Sufyan thought that Nuaym (R.A.) was right, so he replied saying that he would not give them even one man. Thus, Kaab also thought that Nuaym was right. This was the first step toward victory as Nuyam (R.A.) fooled them both to keep them from working together and this supported the nation and protected it.

Prophet’s (S.A.W.) Prayer:

On the 24th day the Prophet (S.A.W.) was on the mountain, where he had been praying faithfully for four days. His prayers were fruitful. An extremely cold night followed and strong cold winds blew, uprooting the tents of Quraish, throwing their belongings and hitting their faces with small stones. Victory began to come with the wind.  Allah says in Quran: 

“O you who have believed, remember the favor of Allah upon you when armies came to [attack] you and We sent upon them a wind and armies [of angels] you did not see. And ever is Allah, of what you do, Seeing.” (Surah Al-Ahzab: 33: 9)

Dear brothers, victory is not offered as a piece of cake for anybody. Victory is bestowed on those courageous faithful believers who exert all their effort to vindicate Allah. Allah (SWT) says in Quran:

 "O you who have believed, in case you vindicate Allah (SWT), He will give you victory and confirm your feet (i.e., give you victory)." (Surah Muhammad: 47:7)

Muslim Victory:

The Prophet (S.A.W.) selected Huzaifa Ibn Al-Yaman (R.A.) to get the news of the enemies without getting into any trouble with them. Huzaifa (R.A.) left and felt very cold until he reached the trench: it was so warm. On the other side, Huzaifa (R.A.) found Quraish and its allies really scared, tired and cold.  Abu Syfyan called the people to gather. The leaders gathered and because it was dark, Huzaifa (R.A.) was able to get among them.  Huzaifa (R.A.) thought of killing Abu Sufyan but he remembered the words of the Prophet (S.A.W.) not to do anything against them. Abu Sufyan told the men that he decided to leave because they could not face the betrayal of the Jews (as they thought the Jews betrayed them). Also they were not prepared for these cold winds and hunger. 

Huzaifa (R.A.) went back to the Prophet (S.A.W.) told him the good news. The Prophet (S.A.W.) told the news to his companions (R.A.) and thanked Allah for this victory.

Fate of Banu Qurayza:

The Prophet (S.A.W.) then told the companions to go back to their homes after 24 days of the siege and 10 days of digging. 

Jibril (A.S.) (Gabriel) descended and said, “O Muhammad! Have you put down your weapons and the angels haven't put theirs yet?” 

Jibril (A.W.) meant Banu Qurayza and their betrayal for thde Muslims.

The Prophet (S.A.W.) called back the companions and told them the fight was not over and told them:

“Whoever believes in Allah and His Messenger will pray the Asr prayer only in Banu Qurayza.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4119)

The companions (R.A.) reached Banu Qurayza and besieged them for 15 days.  Banu Qurayza offered to leave their weapons and get out of Madinah, but the Prophet (S.A.W.) totally refused as Islam is a great mercy but betrayal and corruption are not acceptable. 

Death of Saad bin Maaz (R.A.):

The wound of Saad bin Maaz (R.A.) (the wound he sustained earlier when he was hit by a dart from Quraish) started to bleed again and the Prophet (S.A.W.) embraced him. Saad (R.A.) died. His funeral was attended by 70,000 angels. 

Martyrs and Deaths during the Battle:

During this battle, seven Muslims were martyred and four unbelievers were killed. All of the Companions (R.A.) that were martyred were from Ansaar (Muslim Residents of Madinah).

Outcome of the Battle:

The failure of the siege marked the beginning of Messenger of Allah’s (S.A.W.) undoubted political ascendancy in the city of Medinah. Quraish had exerted their utmost strength to dislodge Prophet (S.A.W.) from Medinah and this defeat caused them to lose their trade with Syria and much of their prestige with it. At this point, Quraish and other non-believers residents of Makkah began to consider that conversion to Islam would be the most prudent option for them.

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