A Background to the Battle of Al-Ahzaab (the Confederates) - I

A Background to the Battle of Al-Ahzaab (the Confederates) - I
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First: The Date of the Battle and Its Causes

 
1-    The Date of the Battle
 
According to the majority of prophetic biography and battle historians, the Battle of Al-Ahzaab took place in the month of Shawwaal, in the fifth year of Hijrah (emigration). Al-Waaqidi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “It was on Tuesday the eighth of Thul-Qa‘dah in the fifth year of Hijrah.” Ibn Sa‘d  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “Allah responded to the supplication of His Messenger  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) and defeated the confederates on Wednesday, in the month of Thul-Qa‘dah, in the fifth year of his emigration [from Makkah to Madeenah].” It was also reported from Az-Zuhri, Maalik bin Anas and Moosa bin ‘Uqbah  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  them that it was in the fourth year of Hijrah.
 
Scholars are of the opinion that those who view that it was in the fourth year of Hijrah depend upon the beginning date of the Hijri calendar starting, in their opinion, in the month of Muharram that came after the Hijrah, without paying attention to the months that preceded it back to Rabee‘ Al-Awwal. However, this differs from the majority opinion according to which the Hijri calendar started from the month of Muharram of the same year of Hijrah. However, Ibn Hazm  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him stated that it was in the fourth year of Hijrah, depending upon the saying of Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) sent him back on the Day of (the Battle of) Uhud and extrapolating from that date. It is unanimously agreed that this occurred in the third year of Hijrah, as he was fourteen years old. However, the interpretation offerred by Al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Hajar and others  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  them is that on the Day of (the Battle of) Uhud, Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was at the beginning of his fourteenth year, whereas on the Day of (the Battle of) Al-Khandaq he was at the end of his fifteenth year; and this conforms with the opinion of the majority.
 
This opinion, which seems to be preponderant, was adopted by Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him who said, “It [the Battle of Al-Ahzaab] was in Shawwal, in the fifth year of Hijrah according to the sounder opinion. There is no difference that [the Battle of] Uhud was in Shawwal in the third year of Hijrah, and the polytheists assured the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) that they would come the following year [for a third round of fighting], that is, the fourth year. However, they failed to fulfill their promise because it was a year of famine, so they returned. When it was the fifth year [of Hijrah] they came to fight him.”
 
2-    Causes of the Battle
 
The Jews of the Banu An-Nadheer had been driven out from Madeenah to Khaybar, and harbored grudges towards the Muslims. No sooner had they started residing in Khaybar than they began planning how to exact retribution from the Muslims. They unanimously agreed to instigate various Arab tribes to wage war against the Muslims. For this malicious purpose, a delegation was formed of Salaam bin Abu Al-Huqayq, Huyayy bin Akhtab, Kinaanah bin Ar-Rabee‘ bin Abu Al-Haqayq, Hawthah bin Qays Al-Waa’ili and Abu ‘Ammaar.
 
The delegation was successful in its mission. Motivated by the bitterness of the strict economic blockade imposed by the Muslims, the Quraysh agreed, and so did Ghatafaan who were covetous of the prosperity of Madeenah and desired to rob and plunder; they were followed by other tribes.
 
The Jewish delegation said to the Makkan polytheists, “Your religion is better than the religion of Muhammad, and you are closer to what is correct than him.” It was then that Allah The Almighty revealed (what means): {Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Scripture, who believe in superstition and false objects of worship and say about the disbelievers, “These are better guided than the believers as to the way?” Those are the ones whom Allah has cursed; and he whom Allah curses - never will you find for him a helper.} [Quran 4:51-52]
 
Wolfensohn refers to the huge mistake which the Jewish delegation made by giving preference to the Qurayshi religion of paganism over the religion of Islam that calls to the worship of one God. He argues that what pains every purported believer in monotheism, whether Jewish or Muslim, is that conversation between the Jewish delegation and the Qurayshi pagans, in which the Jews gave preference to the religion of the Quraysh over the religion of the man of the Islamic message. No doubt, the people of Quraysh were pleased when their religion was praised, which made them more enthusiastic and determined to fight the Muslims. Thus, they declared that they had accepted the invitation to take part in the campaign that would attack Madeenah, for which they made an appointment.
 
The Jewish delegation signed with the chiefs of the Bedouins of Ghatafaan the military Pagan Arab - Jewish union treaty against the Muslims, which included the following articles:
 
a-     The Ghatafaan will take part in the army of the union with a force of six thousand fighters.
b-    As a reward for this, the Jews will pay to the Ghatafaan tribes the entire production of dates of Khaybar for one year.
 
In this way, the Jewish delegation succeeded in returning from their journey to Madeenah with ten thousand fighters: six thousand from the Ghatafaan and its allies, and four thousand from the Quraysh and its allies. This great multitude of warriors encamped near Madeenah.
 
Second: The Muslims’ Handling of the Confederates
 
The Islamic state security was on high alert, being cautious of its enemies. For this reason, it trailed the news of the confederates, watched their movements, and observed the journey of the Jewish delegation from the time it set out from Khaybar to Makkah. It was well acquainted with the negotiations that were held first between the Jewish delegation and the Quraysh, and then between the Jews and the Ghatafaan. No sooner had Madeenah received this information about their enemies, than the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) started to take the necessary defensive measures.
 
He called for an urgent meeting attended by the major leaders of the Muslim army from the Muhaajiroon (emigrants) and the Ansaar (helpers). He discussed with them the dangerous situation, which had resulted from the malicious endeavors of the Jews. Salmaan Al-Faarisi, may Allah be pleased with him, suggested digging a huge trench to help resist the attack of the confederates. This suggestion appealed to the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ). According to Al-Waaqidi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him he said, “O Messenger of Allah, when we were in Persia and we feared an attack of the horsemen [of enemies], we would entrench ourselves. So, would that you, O Messenger of Allah, entrench [Madeenah]!” Salmaan’s, opinion also appealed to the Muslims.
 
When it was decided, after consultations, that a trench should be dug, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) went with some of his Companions to determine the place where it should be dug. He chose a place that was suitable for protecting the Muslim army. According to Al-Waaqidi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him once again, the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) rode a horse and went with a group of his Companions from among the Muhaajiroon and the Ansaar in search of a suitable place to encamp, and the place that seemed most appealing to him was to have the mountain of Sal‘ behind him and dig a trench from Mathaad through Thubaab to Raatij. In this way, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) made use of the cover ensured by the mountain of Sal‘ to safeguard the backs of the Companions.
 
Choosing these sites was successful, for the north of Madeenah was the only side that was open to enemy attack, through which they were able to enter Madeenah and put it at risk. The other sides were impenetrable and immune, and this is why they were to hinder any possible attack. In the south, the houses were tightly packed like an impenetrable fence, and the Harrah of Waaqim in the East and that of Wabarah in the West ensured natural cover. The high forts of the Banu Quraythah in the south east were sufficient to safeguard the backs of the Muslims. There was a treaty between the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) and the Banu Quraythah not to aid anyone or help any enemy against him.
 
That the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) searched for a place that was suitable for the encampment of soldiers highlights the military importance of the site where soldiers should encamp, which would ensure full immunity to them in view of its positive effect on the course and results of the battle.
 
The trench plan of the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) was highly developed for it showed how he depended upon these new techniques of war. The technique of digging trenches was completely new and strange to the Arabs in their wars. Thus, the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) was the first to use this technique in the history of the Arabs and Muslims. It surprised the enemies of Islam and foiled their plan. One of the important factors that helped was the high degree of secrecy and the great swiftness in achieving the plan. This new method of fighting was efficient in weakening the spirits of the confederates and dispersing their forces.
 
(To be continued)

A Background to the Battle of Al-Ahzaab (the Confederates) - II

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