The Biography of

Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam

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Lesson 19

Battle of Ahzaab

With the defeat of the enemies of Islam at Badr and Uhud, the enemies were by no means idle. The idolaters and their allies sent their messengers far and wide to stir up emotions against the Muslims. The Jews were the most active in this effort. Huyay Ibn Akhtab, the leader of the banished Banu Nadhir tribe, began to enlist the support of all the Jewish tribes, the Arab tribes and the Quraish of Makkah in order to make a concerted effort to wipe out the Muslims forever. Initially the Quraish were reluctant having been defeated by the Muslims twice previously. The Jews, however, painted such a rosy picture by promising help from all the Jewish settlements in Arabia that they finally agreed.

An alliance was formed between the Quraish, the Jews and the Ghatfaan to wage a total war against the Muslims. An important clause of the agreement made for the venture was that the Ghatfaan would provide six thousand soldiers while the Jews would give them a whole years harvest of Khaibar to compensate for the expenses incurred by them. The Quraish, on their part, agreed to contribute four thousand combatants. An army of ten thousand strong was, thus, mobilised and Abu Sufyaan assumed command of the combined force.

The Banu Quraiza had been neutral until now. Huyay Ibn Akhtab began to convince their leader Ka'b to join them. After numerous attempts he finally succeeded in soliciting their support as well. When the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam sent a message to remind them of the peace treaty they had with him they replied : "We do not know who Muhammad is and what is meant by a treaty."

Now, the Muslims were in danger of an attack from within and from without. The seriousness of the situation can be gauged by the description given in the Quran :

"When they came upon you from above you and from below you and the eyes turned wild and the hearts reached the throats and you were harbouring doubts about Allah. Then were the believers tested and shaken with a mighty shaking." (Surah Al - Ahzaab, verse 10)

Military genius of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam

When the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam received news of their plans to attack Madinah he consulted with his Sahabah to meet the threat. It was the Persian Salmaan Faarsi Radhi Allahu Anhu who advised the digging of a trench on the side that Madinah lay open to attack. This military manoeuvre was well-known to the Iranians. Salmaan Radhi Allahu Anhu said : "0 Prophet of Allah, when we feared a charge by the cavalry we used to dig a trench to keep the invaders at bay." (1)

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam agreed to his suggestion and decided to have a trench dug in the open ground lying to the north of Madinah. The city was exposed only on that side and was well protected to the west, south and east by palm tree orchards, volcanic rocky plains and granite hills, presenting a considerable obstacle to the progress of a mounted army.

      The Trench around Madinah            

Enthusiasm and Co-operative Spirit

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam himself did the markings and layout for the trench. Approximately ten metres were allotted to every group of ten Sahabah. The depth of it was five yards. It took twenty days to dig and the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam himself helped in digging it.

The impoverished Muslims had little provisions to satisfy their pangs of hunger, but the work proceeded smoothly owing to their enthusiasm and perseverance. Abu Talha Radhi Allahu Anhu relates that once he was exhausted by hunger. He complained to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam and showed his belly on which he had tied a slab of stone for allaying the uneasy sensation. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam showed him his own belly on which he had tied two slabs of stone.

Once the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam noticed the Ansaar and Muhajireen working tirelessly. Observing their hunger he remarked : "O Allah, life is truly the life of the Hereafter, so pardon the Ansaar and Muhajireen."

Overjoyed to hear the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam invoking forgiveness for them they said : "We are pledged to Muhammad, to fight in Jihad till our very end."

Once they came across a rock that they could not uproot. This was brought to the notice of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. He struck the rock with his axe and the rock split into countless fragments. On each spark the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam saw Syria, Iran and Yemen respectively. He gave the glad tidings that these lands would eventually come under the banner of Islam.

Scarcely was the ditch ready, when the entire plain was covered by the tents of the enemy. The trench prevented any form of direct fighting. Both sides had to contend with shooting arrows at each other. When Amr Ibn Wudda, an Arab, finally managed to cross the trench, he challenged the Muslims to fight him. Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu accepted, despite the fact that Amr was a well-known warrior and was considered a match for a thousand men. Having being injured at Badr he had taken an oath not to oil his hair until he had avenged his injury. Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu, however, challenged him and killed him with his famous sword, the 'Zulfiqaar'.

The fortress where the Muslim women and children were sheltered in now came under attack by the Jews of the Banu Quraiza. It was on this occasion that Safiyya Radhi Allahu Anha showed her courage and killed one of the Jews by striking a wooden pole against his head. She cut off his head and threw it towards the others creating the impression that the fort was well guarded.

With the prolonging of the siege both parties were becoming impatient. Icy north winds were blowing and provisions were lacking. Judging the critical situation the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam resorted to military tactics. He devised a plan using Na’im Ibn Mas’ud Radhi Allahu Anhu, a member of the Ashja tribe of Banu Ghatafaan, whose conversion to Islam was not yet publicly known. Na'im went first to the Jews and said: “You are not sure at this stage that the Makkans will succeed in this war. Once the foreign invader returns, as they must do sooner or later, you cannot defend yourselves single-handedly against the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. So, do not involve yourselves without first getting a guarantee that the Makkans will fight their former co-citizens to the end. Ask them for hostages so that you are assured of a fair deal”.

The Jews found this advice reasonable. He then went to the Quraish and told them that the Jews had entered into a conspiracy with the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam and as an assurance of their friendship, had promised to get hold of some of the prominent Quraishi personalities and hand them over to him.

The seeds of distrust sowed by Na'im between the Banu Quraiyza on the one hand and the Quraish and the Banu Ghatfaan on the other made both cautious and suspicious of each others activities. When Abu Jahl wanted to move forward the Jews requested hostages from the Quraish and the Banu Ghatfaan. They refused to hand over anybody to them and were convinced that Na'im had spoken the truth. The Jews also began to think that their allies were not truthful. In this way their unity was crushed.

The sacred month of Shawwal was nearing its end. Zul Qadah, was approaching, in which the Quraish had reasons to be back in Makkah to receive pilgrims rather than fight and violate their superstitions regarding the sacred months of truce. Their food stocks had been exhausted and a terrific hurricane uprooted every tent in the enemy camp. Abu Sufyaan was so terrified that he jumped on the back of his camel and wanted to raise it, not remembering that its legs were tied with rope. Both the Quraish and the Banu Ghatfaan departed in quick succession. Thus, the great enterprise of the Jewish-Makkan conspiracy that had lasted for twenty seven days came to a fruitless end. (2)


Lessons to learn

  • Allah had fulfilled His promise and defeated the confederates in the battle of Ahzaab. Wind, rain, cold weather and disunity in their ranks forced them to leave. Just like in the battle of Badr when angels had come down to assist the Muslims, here Allah used the forces of nature to weaken the disbelievers. Allah certainly gives victory to the believers and the pious by means of armies from His side.
  • The deceptive technique used by the Muslims in this battle was permitted by the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam as it lead to protection of human life and ensured victory for truth over falsehood. This deception was necessary as this was the most effective method at that time to curb the unity of the evil doers.
  • The bravery of Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu was proven when he challenged and killed Amr Ibn Wudda, one of the bravest Arabs of the time.



Action against Banu Quraiza

A divine revelation brought by Jibra’eel Alayhis Salaam commanded the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam to mete out punishment to the Banu Quraiza. They had showed their true colours by betraying the Muslims and breeching the agreement to defend Madinah. The Muslims laid a siege to their fortresses and after twenty five days the Jews gave in.

Repentance of Abu Lubabah Radhi Allahu Anhu

They requested the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam to send to them Abu Lubabah Radhi Allahu Anhu so that they might consult with him. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam accepted their request. When Abu Lubabah went to the Jews all of them stood up to receive him. Abu Lubabah was moved by the plight of the women and children who fell into tears in his presence. The Jews asked him whether they should surrender to the judgement of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. "Yes", he replied and pointed with his hand to his throat.

Before he had left the place it occurred to him that he had not been faithful to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. He hastened back but instead of presenting himself to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam he tied himself to one of the pillars in the Prophet's Masjid. He declared his intention not to leave the place until Allah had forgiven him. He stayed there for six nights with his wife untying him at prayer times. He also resolved not to go back to the Banu Quraiza and to set his eyes again on the place where he had betrayed Allah and His Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.

Finally, a revelation came down forgiving him : "And others who have acknowledged their faults mixed a righteous action with another that was bad. Perhaps Allah will turn towards them in repentance. Surely, Allah is Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Surah Tawbah, verse 102)

Several persons rushed forward to set Abu Lubabah Radhi Allahu Anhu free but he refused, saying: "No. Not by Allah, until the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam unfastens me with his own hands." The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam removed the rope with which Abu Lubabah Radhi Allahu Anhu had tied himself when he came out to perform the morning prayer.

The verdict

The Jews then proposed to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam that Sa’ad Ibn Mu’az Radhi Allahu Anhu, who was their friend prior to accepting Islam, be asked to decide the issue. In this way they hoped to get a favourable settlement for themselves. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam agreed to their request. Sa’ad Ibn Mu’az Radhi Allahu Anhu, who was seriously wounded, was brought with difficulty to the sector of the Banu Quraizah. He gave his decision:

“I am doing this according to the commands of the Taurah (The Book of the Jews). All the men of Banu Quraiza should be put to death. Their women and children would be left in the care of the Muslims and their wealth and possessions be included in the Baitul Maal (Public Treasury)”.

The verdict was justified in three aspects of its execution. Firstly, the law of Taurah had been applied. The fifth book of Moses, Deuteronomy, containing the sacred law of the Jews on the subject specified this very punishment. (3)

Secondly, when Madinah was attacked from all sides, the Banu Quraiza had done the worst act of treachery by breaking their peace treaty with the Muslims and had planned a mutiny from within Madinah. Thirdly, they did not trust the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam, but gave preference to Sa’ad Ibn Mu’az Radhi Allahu Anhu because of his previous friendship with them. Sa’ad Ibn Mu’az Radhi Allahu Anhu, however, decided with justice. The sentence pronounced by him made sure that Madinah would henceforth be safe from the crafty Jews.



Lessons to learn

  • The treacherous nature of the Jews was once again revealed. Their dishonesty had been exposed and they were given the appropriate punishment.
  • The digging of a trench was a military strategy unknown to the Arabs. When the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam implemented this suggestion he taught the Muslims a lesson in progress. An idea from a foreign nation is acceptable if it is beneficial to the Muslims and it does not breed slavish imitation. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam followed the very same principle when he wanted to send letters to the kings and emperors of his time. He was told that it was the habit of the kings that they would not accept a letter unless it had a seal. He immediately ordered that a ring be made with a seal on which was written Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah.

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(1) Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, Riyadh, 2000, p. 312

(2) Nadwi, Syed Ab al-Hasan Ali, Muhammad Rasulullah, Lucknow, 1982, p. 242

(3) Nadwi, Syed Ab al-Hasan Ali, Muhammad Rasulullah, Lucknow, 1982, p. 250




Dua after drinking water


One should not drink water standing.

One should not drink from the chipped edge of a container.