The Biography of

Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam

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    Lesson 26      

Battle of Hunain

The resounding victory of the Muslims over the Quraish and the ever-increasing conversions to Islam surprised the disbelievers. Many tribes accepted Islam when they saw this. Others like the Hawazin and the Thaqif were not contented, however. The Hawazin were the old enemies of the Quraish. They regarded themselves as their rivals in power and prestige. The submission of the Quraish to the rising power of Islam had made them undisputed champions of paganism. Now they began to harbour hopes of bringing the Muslims to their knees. They saw an opportunity to build their fame upon the declining prestige of the Quraish.

Preparation for the battle

The Hawazin chief, Malik Ibn Auf al-Nasari, declared war against the Muslims and was seconded by several other tribes. They took along their cattle, women and children staking everything on the issue of the battle. The army camped at Autas. Malik instructed his men: "Break your sheaths as soon as the Muslims are in sight and then attack them as one man." (1)

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam set out from Makkah with two thousand Makkans, some of whom were recent converts while others had yet to accept Islam, along with the ten thousand troops he had brought from Madinah. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam borrowed a hundred armours and other equipment from Safwaan Ibn Umayyah. This was the strongest force mobilised thus far to defend the honour of Islam. The Muslims were, naturally, overconfident because of their great strength while some even exultantly boasted that they could not be defeated now for want of numbers. (2)

In the Valley of Hunain

It was the 10th of Shawwaal 8 A.H., when the Muslim army reached Hunain. The enemy had already taken its position in the craters of the valley. A volley of arrows was all that the Muslims saw of the enemy and then, suddenly, the enemy followed up the attack with full force. Hawazin were celebrated archers.

The sudden onslaught forced the Muslim flanks to fall back and they fled in terror. There was a complete rout of the Muslims without any possibility of an orderly retreat. Like the battle of Uhud, when the rumour of the Prophet's Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam death had disheartened the Muslims, the troops were once more driven to despair in Hunain by a similar misgiving.

Victory and Help of Allah

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam had, all the while, stood firm on his place. Only a few of the Ansaar and Muhajireen remained with him. Abbas Ibn Abdul Muttalib Radhi Allahu Anhu was holding the bridle of his mule while Allah's Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam was calling aloud: "Verily, I am the Prophet in truth. I am the son of Abdul Muttalib." (3)

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam instructed Abbas Radhi Allahu Anhu to call out: "0 Ansaar, 0 comrades of the tree (referring to the oath taken under the tree at Hudaibiyah)." All those who heard the cry, responded : "Here we are." (4)

When a sufficient number of men had gathered, they attacked the enemy. A combat between the two parties started afresh. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam then took to a height along with some of his Sahabah. He saw the two sides grappled with one another and remarked : "Now the battle has grown hot." He threw a few pebbles at the enemy. Abbas Radhi Allahu Anhu relates that he saw the enemy becoming slack thereafter and losing the day to the Muslims. The enemy was finally defeated. Allah had helped the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam with the hosts of heaven to bring the Hawazin to their knees :

"Allah has given you victory on many fields and on the day of Hunain, when you exulted in your multitude but it availed you nothing, and the earth, vast as it is, was narrowed for you and you turned back in flight. Allah then sent His peace down upon His messenger and upon the believers, and sent down armies you could not see and punished those who disbelieved. Such is the reward of the disbelievers."

The Last Encounter

The bitterness and malice borne by the pagans against the Muslims was melted away after the battle of Hunain. The last stronghold of paganism was toppled in this battle and no formidable opponent of Islam remained in Arabia. The remaining tribes streamed to Madinah from every part of Arabia to put their trust in Allah and His Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam had given orders to the troops, before the battle started, not to lift their hands against women, children, men hired for non-combatant purposes and slaves. A woman was, however, killed in the battle. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam expressed regret when the matter was brought to his notice. (5)



Lessons to learn

The borrowing of weapons from Safwaan Ibn Umayyah, while he was a disbeliever, was proof that it is permissible to purchase or borrow weapons from disbelievers. However, such a transaction should not strengthen their power and authority over the Muslims and should not allow them to inflict harm on the Muslims.

Another lesson from this incident was that the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam borrowed the armours after the conquest of Makkah when Safwaan was helpless and defeated and could not stipulate any conditions in the transactions. However, the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam did not take it from him by force even though he had the ability to do so as he was in the position of a powerful conqueror. This was another beautiful teaching of prophethood. A conquered nation deserves respect. Their wealth should not be usurped and taken from them forcefully.

The Muslims had to suffer this temporary defeat after the brilliant victory of Makkah as if by way of punishment for their reliance on numbers instead of the help of Allah. Their faith needed to be strengthened by a misadventure for they had to learn the lesson that both victory and defeat came from Allah. Victory should not make man conceited and defeat should not make man despondent.

The strength and faith of the leader has a deep impact on his followers. It can change defeat into victory by strengthening the hearts of the weaker followers. The statement of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam that he was a true prophet showed his firmness and self-confidence. A leader always has to show that determination to lead his followers to victory.



Distribution of the booty

The captives of Hunain numbered six thousand. The spoils included twenty-four thousand camels, forty thousand or more goats and a large amount of silver. This was the largest spoil that had fallen so far into the hands of the Muslims. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam gave out a large portion of the spoils to the Quraish while the Ansaar got a small share. Some of the young men among the Ansaar complained about this. When the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam heard about this he ordered the Ansaar to assemble in an enclosure. Then he gave an extremely moving speech that brought them to tears.

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam said: "Did I not come to you when you were astray and Allah guided you through me? You were poor and Allah made you rich. You were divided and He softened your hearts to unite."

The Ansaar replied: "Yes, indeed, Allah and His Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam are most kind and generous."

"But," the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam again asked them, "O Ansaar, why don't you answer me?"

They said: "What answer can we give, 0 Messenger of Allah. Kindness and generosity belong to Allah and His Prophet."

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam continued : "Had you wished, you could have said and verily you would have spoken the truth and I would have acknowledged it : "You came discredited and we believed you. You came deserted and we helped you. You were a fugitive and we gave you shelter. You were poor and we comforted you."

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam then showed his love for the Ansaar and, at the same time, explained the reason for differentiation in giving out the gifts. He said: "Do you have some misgivings about me, 0 Ansaar, because of what I have given to them for the short-lived bloom of this life by which they may become Muslim, while I have entrusted you to Islam? "

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam then posed a question that inflamed the Ansaar with love for him. He asked: "0 Ansaar, are you not satisfied that these men should take away sheep and goats while you go back with the Prophet of Allah? By Him who has the life of Muhammad in His hand, what you take back with you would be better than the things with which they would return. Had there been no migration I would have been one of the Ansaar myself. If all the people go one way in a valley and the Ansaar take another I would take the way of the Ansaar. The Ansaar are the undergarment and others are over garments. 0 Allah, have mercy on the Ansaar, their sons and their son's sons."

All the Ansaar wept until tears ran down their beards as they said: "We are satisfied and happy that the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam falls to our lot." (6)



Lessons to Learn

This distribution in favour of the new converts to Islam was in order to keep them in the fold of Islam as many of them were leaders and wealthy people. They were new to the faith and this was the first spoils of war that had come into their hands. Their faith was not as strong as the earlier companions of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam could not have won them over by simply forcing them to remain as Muslim without any material reward. He gave wealth to them initially and would later work on their hearts and convert them to people strong in faith. Wealth is many times the single and only factor that can remove the enmity of an enemy. This was the wisdom of this decision and it proved true as these very same men became strong Muslims and were instrumental in taking Islam to the rest of world.

When the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam heard about the rumours he immediately dispelled them by calling the Ansaar and addressing the issue head on. He did not allow the enemies to further build on a misconception and sow the seeds of hatred. His sequence of questions and his choice of words provide an amazing model of leadership. He not only convinced them of his honesty and kindness but further strengthened his relationship with them.

The response of the Ansaar to the speech of their master was a brilliant testimony of their faith and love for him. They knew that it was because of Allah and His Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam that they had been saved from a life of disgrace and difficulty. They knew that Islam had brought them honour and they would always give their lives, wealth and children in the service of the faith.



(1) Ibn Hisham

(2) Tafseer Tabari

(3) Sahih Muslim

(4) Ibn Hisham

(5) Sahih Muslim

(6) Bukhari, Zadul Ma'ad



Protection of ones Deen, life, family and wealth

Meaning : With the name of Allah upon my religion, myself,

my children, my family and my wealth.

A Hadith

Allah will have mercy on those who are merciful. Show mercy to the dwellers of the earth and the One who is in heaven will have mercy on you. (Tirmidhi)