Battle of Khandaq
The Battle of Khandaq (Arabic: غزوة الخندق, Battle of the Trench) or The Battle of Aḥzāb (Arabic: غزوة الأحزاب, Battle of the Confederates) took place in the fifth year of Hijra/627. It initially broke out by the stratagem of Banu Nadir tribe. Quraysh tribe became united with all its allies including polytheist 'Arab tribes in order to eradicate Islam. The number of their soldiers was ten thousand, yet Muslim army was only three thousand soldiers.
|Battle of Khandaq|
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|Result||Victorious of Muslims|
|Cause||Stratagem of Banu Nadir|
|Muslims||Quraysh and its allies|
|The Prophet (s)||Abu Sufyan|
|6 martyrs||8 were killed|
|Muslims, by the suggestion of Salman dug a Trench in the north of Medina, Qur'an mentioned this event in Qur'an 2: 214, Qur'an 4: 51-55, and Qur'an 33: 9-25.|
Banu Qurayza tribe had promised to be impartial in case of war; nevertheless, they violated the contract and became confederate with the unbelievers. To take up arms against the unbelievers, Muslims dug a trench around Medina, an idea from Salman al-Farsi. The war terminated by Muslim's victory and the army of polytheists had to withdraw.
During the battle, 'Amr b. 'Abd Wudd, eminent for his great valor and bravery, proceeded the trench along with some other warriors and threw down the challenge that who would dare to fight with him?
Muslims remained silent, while they were overwhelmed with panic. Ultimately, 'Ali (a) volunteered and went for the challenge with the Prophet (s)'s consent. He succeeded to take 'Amr's life. This had such a huge positive impact on Muslim's spirit that led to them triumphing over the enemy. "'Ali's stroke was superior to any jinn's or human's (thaqalayn) worship", said Prophet Muhammad (s).
This war is named as al-Khandaq (trench) because Muslims dug a trench. This war is also well-known as al-Ahzab (confederates) since Quraysh tribe got unified with other tribes to eradicate Islam.
The majority of historians believe the date of its occurrence is the fifth year of Hijra. There are different views about the exact month. Some sources believe it was Shawwal, and some others refer to Dhu l-Qa'da. In a hadith, it has been said that the Prophet (s) set off for the war on Thursday, 10th of Shawwal/March 7, and ended it on Saturday, first of Dhu l-Qa'da/March 27, 627.
Being exiled by the Prophet (s) owing to their disloyalty, Banu Nadir tribe went to Khaybar and instigated other Jews to arrange a war against Muslims. This could be the chief cause of the war. After that, some Jews from Banu Nadir and Banu Wa'il such as; Huyayy b. Akhtab, Sallam b. Abi l-Huqayq, Kinana b. Rabi' b. Abi l-Huqayq, Hawdhat b. Qays al-Wa'ili, Abu 'Ammar al-Wa'ili, went to Mecca and encouraged Abu Sufyan and Quraysh to begin a war against Prophet Muhammad (s). Abu Sufyan accepted their plan with open arms, thus Jews and Quraysh got unified.
As following plans, Jews mentioned earlier met Ghatafan tribe, led by 'Uyayna b. Hisn al-Fazari. They persuaded them to take part in the war by promising to provide them with one-year date product of Kaybar area. Then, they visited Banu Sulaym b. Mansur and convinced them as well.
The unbelievers' army all together were ten thousand men. Four thousands of them along with three hundred horses and 1,500 camels were from Quraysh tribe and its confederates. In some references, the number of them (Quraysh, Ghatafan, Banu Sulaym, Banu Asad, Banu Ashja', Banu Qurayza, Banu Nadir, and other Jews) is said to be twenty four thousands. The unity of the unbelievers and Jews in this war represents their determination to eliminate Islam. That is why, when Imam 'Ali (a) confronted 'Amr b. 'Abd Wad, the Prophet said: "The whole Islam has faced the whole polytheism". Some sources believe the number of Muslims was only three thousand.
Suggestion of Digging the Trench
Being informed about polytheists' determination by a supporter from Khuza'a tribe, the Prophet (s) asked for people's opinions about whether to stay in Medina and fight there, or leave the city and confront the polytheists out of the city. "Whenever we were in danger by enemy's horsemen in Iran, we dug trench all around us", said Salman al-Farsi. Having been conquered in the Battle of Uhud due to their opposition with Prophet's (s) opinion (and leaving the city), people chose to stay in town and accepted Salman's suggestion to dig trench. Digging trench was not commonplace among 'Arabs up to that time, and it provoked amazement among both Muslims and the polytheists.
- Digging the Trench
The Prophet (s) ordered people to dig a trench before them, having Mount Sal' behind. They had to start the job from Mudhad (a fort located in the West of Fath Mosque) and carry it on to Dhubab region and Mount Ratij (besides Mount Banu 'Ubayd, at the West of Bathan). The Prophet (s) specified forty Dhira' (around twenty meters) for every ten people and made each tribe responsible for digging each part. It is said that Immigrant (Muhajirun) were to dig the trench from Ratij to Dhubab, and Helpers (Ansar) had to do so from Dhubab to Mount Banu 'Ubayd. The Prophet (s) himself contributed to the work. He made doors for trench and the responsibility of guarding them lay with a person from each tribe.
Muslims borrowed many implements such as spade, pickaxe, axe, and basket from Banu Qurayza, who were Prophet's (s) confederate at that time. Allah sent some verses to the Prophet (s) about the pious men who did not cease working without the Prophet's (s) approval, and also about hypocrites who were not dedicated to work and abandoned the job to visit their families without Prophet's (s) permission.
While excavating the ground, Muslims came across an extremely impenetrable rock. The Prophet (s) struck it three times. By each sparkle out of each stroke, the prophet foretold the blessing news of Muslim's future conquests in Syria, Yemen, and Iran.
Digging trench lasted for six days. Youngsters and adolescents took part in it as well.
Domiciles of Muslims and the Polytheists
Confederations (al-Ahzab) comprising of three armies by the command of Abu Sufyan arrived in Medina. Quraysh along with some tribes (Ahabish) and their confederate tribes such as Kinana and Tihama were domiciled in Ruma, between Jurf and Zaghaba. And Ghatafan tribe camped near Mount Uhud with their confederate tribes. The Prophet (s) and Muslims were domiciled at the foot of Mount Sal', and brought the women and children to Qila'.
Treachery of Banu Qurayza
- Main article: Banu Qurayza
Ka'b b. Asad al-Qurazi, the leader of Banu Qurayza, despite his unwillingness at the beginning, chose to be on the polytheists' side after the because of the persuasion of Huyayy b. Akhtab. The Prophet (s) sent the leaders of Aws and Khazraj tribes (in order: Sa'd b. Mu'adh and Sa'd b. 'Ubada) to make sure about the authenticity of this news. He asked them to inform him in a way that no one found out so that it would not put Muslims in low spirits. Banu Qurayza had the worst behavior with them with the most insulting words. They came back to the Prophet (s) and notified him by naming the two tribes 'Adal and Qara. What they meant by it was the remembrance of the treachery of these two tribes towards Khubayb b. 'Adi and his friends in Raji'.
Muslim's Tough Situation
Muslims feared very much, since they were nervous about their family condition inside Medina (situated at the back of their domicile), and they had to confront those enemy warriors passing the trench every now and then. The Qur'an depicted Muslim's fear and their suspicion about God's promises very plainly. The fear was so deep that Mu'attib b. Qushayr, a hypocrite, said that Muhammad promised us the conquest of Iran and Rome; however, no one dares to go out even to ease his nature.
Muslims guarded the trench in turn, day and night, enduring severe cold weather and hunger. Some miracles ascribed to the Prophet (s) about satisfying Muslim's hunger have been narrated. One time, there were so many attacks from the enemy that the Prophet (s) didn't manage to say Noon and Afternoon prayers, and had to perform them later along with Sunset and Dusk prayer.
Some of the Muslims like Banu Haritha asked the Prophet (s) for the permission to leave, putting forward the excuse that their houses are unprotected and they worry about enemy's attacks or burglary. There have been some narrations about shooting arrows, hard fighting, and injuries from both sides such as Sa'd b. Mu'adh. Also, it has been said that Khalid b. al-Walid, 'Amr b. al-'As, and Abu Sufyan had some attacks against the Muslims army.
Banu Qurayza's treachery, severe cold weather, famine, and starvation had put so much pressure on Muslim's shoulders. Qur'an has mentioned this through some verses.
Danger of Banu Qurayza
When the danger of Banu Qurayza's night attack to the center of Medina intensified, the Prophet (s) made two groups of the companions responsible for guarding Muslim's houses. Since Muslims' anxiety was more about Banu Qurayza attack to women and children rather than about Quraysh attacks to themselves, they recited takbir until morning.
Once at night, two groups of Muslims encountered each other, shooting one another unintentionally. Afterwards, they applied a secret slogan to avoid similar plausible incidents. The slogan was: Ha Mim, la yunsarun (means the enemy will not conquer).
'Ali's Battle with 'Amr b. 'Abd Wudd
During the war, 'Amr b. 'Abd Wudd, a luminary prominent for his great valor, considered as equal as a thousand warriors in terms of being warlike and courageous, proceeded the narrow part of the trench along with some warriors. But they were impeded by 'Ali (a) and some other Muslims. Having been injured in the Battle of Badr, thus being deprived of participating in the Battle of Uhud, 'Amr was fresh enough to throw down the challenge and call for an opponent.
Even though Imam 'Ali (a) volunteered to fight with him, the Prophet (s) did not allow him, hoping that someone else would stand against him. No one became volunteer owing to their fear. As this condition lasted for quite a long time, 'Amr announced proudly that he got a sore throat because of calling constantly for a rival!
Ultimately, Imam 'Ali (a) got ready to begin the combat with the Prophet's (s) permission. The Prophet (s) put his 'imama (turban) on 'Ali's (a) head, gave his sword to him and sent him to the battle. Ali (a) proceeded and told 'Amr either to become Muslim or to call off the combat. 'Amr refused both suggestions, therefore a very difficult battle took place. 'Ali (a) warded Amr's stroke off by his shield, then took his life by a strong stroke, resulting in all his companion's escape. 'Ali (a) recited takbir right after his victory over 'Amr, then killed Nawfal b. 'Abd Allah, who was running away and was trapped while passing the trench.
Prophet's Hadiths about Ali's Superiority
Ali's (a) action of killing 'Amr b. 'Abd Wudd helped Islam army significantly to be victorious over the polytheists. About it, the Prophet (s) said:
- "Ali's stroke was superior to any jinn's or human's (thaqalayn) worship."
In another hadith, he averred:
- " Ali's combat with 'Amr is superior to all my followers' good deeds until the Day of Judgment".
And also, while Ali (a) and 'Amr were fighting, the Prophet (s) stated:
- "The whole Islam (or iman) has confronted the whole kufr (or shirk).
Aside from Ali's (a) combat with 'Amr b. 'Abd Wudd, which resulted in enemy's defeat and escape, historians have referred to three other factors assisting Muslims in Battle of Khandaq.
- The important role of a person by the name of Nu'aym b. Mas'ud al-'Ashja'i, a member of Ghatafan tribe who became Muslim secretly and none of the polytheists knew about it.
Nu'aym met the Prophet (s) covertly. He told Nu'aym to undermine the enemy and to arise disputes among them. Nu'aym asked the Prophet (s) for the permission to say whatever he wants to achieve this goal. The Prophet (s) allowed him and said, "war is deceit". Nu'aym b. Mas'ud met Banu Qurayza, whom he already had intercourse with. He recommended that they had better ask Quraysh and Ghatafan for hostages, on account that they had no worry about their houses being accessible, thus they could easily leave Banu Qurayza alone. Then, he visited Quraysh and Ghatafan and informed them about Banu Qurayza's regret and disloyalty. He told them Banu Qurayza had decided to take a hostage from them and give the hostages up to Muhammad (s), and then establish peace between themselves and Muslims. He recommended that they not give any hostages to Banu Qurayza. Consequently, disputes arose among them.
- As al-Waqidi narrates, when the polytheists' army arrived in Medina, there was no cultivation left, and people had already harvested their plantations a month before. As a result, the remaining fodder on the ground was not adequate for Quraysh and Ghatafan horses. Camels were about to die due to starvation and Medina ground was totally dry because of no rain.
- Ibn Sa'd has told about the Prophet's (s) prayer, its fulfillment, and divine assistance. The Prophet (s) prayed in a place later named as al-Ahzab Mosque, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: "O God! Make the confederates defeated and run-away". Finally, his supplication was fulfilled on Wednesday between his Noon and Afternoon prayer. At a cold winter night, a terrible storm destroyed their belongings. Qur'an has mentioned this divine help.
Polytheists' defeat and withdrawal in the Battle of Khandaq paralyzed them in a way that it was impossible for them to rearrange their army and devise another scheme for a fight. Moreover, it built up the newly-established Islamic government of Medina. After the death of 'Amr b. 'Abd Wudd by Ali (a) or after the polytheists' defeat which occurred two or three days after Amr's death, the Prophet of Islam (s) said: "We will make war against them afterwards, and they will not go to war with us". The same as what the Prophet (s) said happened until God released Mecca by his Prophet (s).
The blockade of Muslims kept on for fifteen days. Except for the siege and shooting, no fighting took place during this period. The Prophet (s) had selected Ibn Maktum as his stand-in in Medina.
Constructions of Some Mosques at War Place
On Mount Dhubab (well-known as Jabal al-Raya), about 1400 meters away from the Northwest of al-Masjid al-Nabawi and 150 meters far from the North of Mount Sal', there is a mosque which recently was renewed and repaired, so-called as Masjid al-Raya. It is the area where the Prophet (s) supervised digging the trench from, had put up his tent and said prayers.
Other mosques by the names of Masjid al-Fath (also known as Masjid al-Ahzab or Masjid al-A'la) were built on Mount Sal' around seven hundred meters away al-Masjid al-Nabawi, where the Prophet's (s) tent had been put up, a place in which he said prayers, monitored everything, and received God's blessing promise of victory over the polytheists. This mosque along with some other mosques on the foot of Mount Sal' are famous as Masajid al-Fath or al-Masajid al-Sab'a (the seven mosques). In 1424/2003-2004, a very large mosque named Masjid al-Khandaq was constructed, having some of the seven mosques inside.
Mosque of Fatima al-Zahra (a) is one of the seven mosques. Unfortunately, it has been shut off by some cement blocks for a long time.
- And when the hypocrites were saying, as well as those in whose hearts is a sickness, ‘Allah and His Apostle did not promise us [anything] except delusion.’ (12) And when a group of them said, ‘O people of Yathrib! [This is] not a place for you, so go back!’ And a group of them sought the Prophet’s permission, saying, ‘Our homes lie exposed [to the enemy],’ although they were not exposed. They only sought to flee. (Quran 33:12-13)
- O you who have faith! Remember Allah's blessing upon you when the hosts came at you, and We sent against them a gale and hosts whom you did not see. And Allah sees best what you do. (Qur'an 33:9)
- Do you suppose that you shall enter paradise though there has not yet come to you the like of [what befell] those who went before you? Stress and distress befell them and they were convulsed until the apostle and the faithful who were with him said, ‘When will Allah’s help [come]?’ Look! Allah’s help is indeed near!
- Certainly Allah has fulfilled His Apostle’s vision in all truth: You will surely enter the Sacred Mosque, God willing, in safety and without any fear, with your heads shaven or hair cropped. So He knew what you did not know, and He assigned [you] besides that a victory near at hand. Qur'an 48:27
- The material for writing this article is mainly taken from غزوه خندق in Farsi WikiShia.