17 The Battle of Hunayn

Once Islam was attracting so much popular attention, its enemies made a final attempt to check its expansion. It was the Arabs’ last arrow in their quiver against Islam and the Muslims.

The Hawazin regarded themselves as the greatest tribe after the Quraysh. There had always been rivalry between the two. When the Quraysh submitted to the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah in Makkah, the Hawazin became the undisputed champions of the idol-worshippers.

Malik ibn Awf an-Nasri, the Hawazin chief, called for war against the Muslims and the tribe of Thaqif supported him. They agreed to advance against the Muslims taking their property, women and children with them so that everyone would fight to the last in defence of his family and possessions.

The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah set out with two thousand Muslims from Makkah, including those men who had only recently accepted Islam and some who had not yet accepted the faith, and ten thousand who had set out with him from Madinah. It was the strongest force mobilised so far to defend the honour of Islam. Some Muslims even boasted, ‘We will not be defeated today for lack of numbers.’

The Muslims advanced to the valley of Hunayn before dawn on 10 Shawwal 8 A.H. The Hawazin were already in the valley, concealed in its ravines. The Muslims were terrified when the Hawazin suddenly loosed volleys of arrows, then appeared, unsheathing their swords, to attack as one man.

Many Muslims fled, none paying attention to anyone else. It was a critical moment. A complete rout of the Muslims was in sight. They were unlikely to put up any resistance after what had happened. In addition, a rumour spread among the people that the Prophet had been killed, just as had occurred in the Battle of Uhud, and the Muslim forces retreated still further.

Allah had chastised the Muslims for boasting about their strength and had made them taste the bitterness of defeat after the sweetness of victory. They had to remember that both come from Allah. Then the peace of Allah seemed to descend once more. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah had stayed firm on his white mule; he had not shown any fear. Some of the Muhajirun and Ansar had remained with him. Al’Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib was holding the bridle of his mule when the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah called out:

‘I am the Prophet and there is no denying it. I am the son of Abdul-Muttalib, ‘
When a squadron of idol-worshippers advanced towards him, he took a handful of dust and threw it at the distant enemy lines. They were blinded by it.
When he saw his own men in confusion, he said, ‘O Abbas! Shout: Men of Ansar! Comrades of the acacia tree!’
They heard the call and answered, ‘At your service! At your service!’

Abbas(R.A.) had a loud voice which carried well. The soldiers rushed back towards him, dismounting from their camels and taking up their swords and shields. When a large group of them had gathered round the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah, they bore down on the enemy and battle began. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah stood up in his stirrups and his people took heart. Both sides fought bravely and a group of handcuffed prisoners was brought to the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah and Allah sent down His angels to help. They filled the valley and the Hawazin were defeated. This is referred to in the Qur’an:

Allah has already helped you on many fields, and on the day of Hunayn, when your multitude was pleasing to you, but it availed you naught, and the land for all its breadth was straitened for you, and you turned about, retreating. Then Allah sent down His Tranquillity upon His Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) and upon the believers, and He sent down legions you did not see, and He chastised the unbelievers; that is the recompense of the unbelievers. (9: 25-6)

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