|The Battle of The Trench|
The Battle of the Trench began when the Jewish tribe Banu Nadir attacked the Muslims in Medina who had expelled the tribe for their alleged treachery towards them.
The Banu Nadir were initially allies of the Madinan Muslims, but they secretly intrigued with the Makkan polytheists and some of the Madinans. They attempted to take the life of Muhammad when he visited them. Muhammad asked them to leave the strategic position which they occupied, approximately 3 miles south of Madina. They refused to leave and the Muslims attacked. Seeing that neither the Makkan polytheists nor the Madinans helped the tribe, the Banu Nadir were forced 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 any other possessions they could carry. Most of them joined their brethren in Syria and the others in Khaybar.
The army of Mecca was a confederation of the tribes Quraysh, Kinanah, Banu Sulaim, Ghatafan, Bani Murrah, Fazarah and Ashja' under the leadership of, amongst others, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb. The confederation fielded 10,000 soldiers; its backbone was the Quraysh cavalry.
Medina was defended by 3,000 Muslims.
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 10,000 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.
While the war was continuing with exchanges of arrows and stones, God’s Messenger 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.
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, when The Prophet told Ali to fight him, he said: "remember Ali, he is 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.
Dirar, Hubayra and Nawfal were also killed by ‘Ali. 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.
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!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.
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.