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The Battle of Hunayn


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The resounding victory of the Muslims over the Quraysh and the ever-increasing conversions to Islam deeply frightened the enemies out of their senses. Therefore, these adversaries made another attempt, as a last remedy of sort, to check Islam’s fast growing power and popularity but all these failed, rendering their efforts completely inutile.

Assemblage of Hawazin

Hawazin were the old enemies of the Quraysh who considered themselves as their rivals in power and prestige. The submission of the Quraysh to the rising power of Islam had made them undisputed champions of paganism, as they began to harbor hopes of winning the laurels by bringing the Muslims upon their knees. They saw a god-sent opportunity to build up their fame on the declining prestige of the Quraysh.

The Hawazin chief, Malik b. ‘Auf al-Nasari declared he was against the Muslims which was seconded by several other tribes like Thaqif, Nasr, Jusham and S’ad b. Bakr. Two clans of Hawazin, K’ab and Kilab, kept away from Malik b. ‘Auf, but the rest of the alliance commissioned their forces to descend on the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). They also took their cattle, women and children, staking everything on the issue of the battle, in order to ensure that every one would fight to the last and that nobody would retreat or get back to their homes.

An old veteran Durayd b. al-Simma, who was known for his competence in the art of warfare, also accompanied the Hawazin army that took its bivouac at Autas.(58) Their camp reverberated with the groaning of the camels, braying of the asses, bleating of the sheep and goats as well as with the crying of the children. Malik instructed his men: “Break your scabbards as soon as the Muslims are in sight and then attack them as one man.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 437-39)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had with him two thousand Makkahns, some of whom were recent converts while others had yet to accept Islam, along with the ten thousand troops he had brought from Madeenah. This was thus the strongest force mobilized so far to defend the honor 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. (Tafsir Tabari, Vol. X; pp. 63-64)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) obtained on credit, on this occasion, some coats of mail and arms from Safwan b. Umayyah although the latter was still a polytheist. (Ibn HIsham, Vol. II, p. 440)

Not a Sign of Idolatry

The people of Makkah who had joined the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) in this battle were fresh from paganism. And during the days of heathenism, some tribes of Arabia used to venerate a great green tree known as Dhat-u-Anwat, under which they stayed for a day suspending their weapons to its branches and offering sacrifices beneath it. When these men were traveling together with the army, they happened to pass by a big shady tree, which reminded them of the one they had adored in the past. They immediately requested the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam): “Make us a tree, as we used to have Dhat-u-Anwat, O Messenger of Allah. “The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) replied, “God is Great! Him who holds my life in His hand, you say what the people of Moses said to him: Make for us a god even as they have gods. He (Moses) said: Lo! Ye are a folk who know not.” (Qur'an 7:138) The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) then added, “Verily, you would follow every custom of the people before you.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 442)

In the Wadi of Hunayn

It was the 10th of Shawwal, 8 A.H. when the army reached Hunayn. Descending the wadi in the morning twilight, the enemy had already taken its position. Through the glens and hollows and craters of the volley of arrows was all that the Muslims saw of the enemy, then suddenly the enemy followed up the attack with full force. Hawazin were celebrated archers. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 442, pp. 442-43)

The sudden onslaught forced the Muslim contingents to charge back and they fled in terror with none heeding the other. The battle had taken a dangerous turn as a complete rout of the Muslims was already imminent without any possibility of an orderly retreat or rallying of their force again. As in the battle of Uhud, when the rumor of the Prophet's (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) death had depressed the Muslims, the troops were once more driven to despair in Hunayn under a similar extent.

Rift within the Ranks

Some of the rude fellows from Makkah who had joined the Muslim army but were not strong in faith started talking about their dissatisfaction and frustration with Islam. One said, “Their exodus will stop before they get at the sea.” Another man remarked,” The spell of their sorcery has ended today.” (Ibn Hsiham, Vol. II, pp. 442-44)

Victory and Peace of God

The Muslims had to suffer this defeat after the brilliant victory of Makkah as if by way of punishment for their reliance on numbers instead of the succor of God. Their faith needed to be strengthened by a misadventure for they have to realize that both victory and defeat came from God and that neither one should make man exultant nor the other despondent. The Muslims were all too preoccupied with their plight when the peace of God seemed to be descending on them and the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had all the while stood firm on his place, riding his white mule, without any fear or shivers. Only a few of the Ansaar and Muhaajirun nor his relatives were then with him. ‘Abbaas b. ‘Abdul Muttalib was holding the bridle of his mule while God’s Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was calling aloud: “Verily, I am the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) without falsehood; I am son of ‘Abdul Muttalib.”(59)

In the meantime, a detachment of the enemy advanced towards him. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) took a handful of dust and threw it into their eyes.

When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) saw his men in confusion, he said, ‘O ‘Abbaas call out, O Ansaar, O comrades of the acacia tree.”(60) All those who heard the cry, responded, “Here we are.” ‘Abbaas had a aloud voice. Whoever heard him calling got off from his camel and came to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). When sufficient number of men had gathered around, they rallied upon the enemy. A collision between the two parties started anew. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) then proceeded to an elevated area along with some of his companions. He saw both forces grappling with one another which prompted him to remark: “Now the battle has grown hot.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 445) He threw a few pebbles on the enemy. ‘Abbaas relates that he saw the enemy started becoming lackadaisical thereafter, finally conceding the day to the Muslims. (Sahih Muslim)

Both groups of armies fought bravely. However, before all those Muslims who had fled away had returned, the enemy was discomfited and a party of handcuffed prisoners was brought before the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). (Ibn Hisham , Vol. II, p. 445) Allah helped the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) with the hosts of heaven to win the day and brought Hawazin to surrender. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Jihad, Ghazwaz Hunayn)

“Allah hath given you victory in many fields and on the day of Hunayn, when ye exulted in your multitude but it availed you naught, and the earth, vast as it is, was straightened for you; then ye turned back in fight;

“Then Allah sent His peace of reassurance down upon His messenger and upon the believers, and sent down hosts ye could not see, and punished those who disbelieved. Such is the reward of the disbeliever." [Qur'an 9:25-26]

The Last Encounter

The bitterness and rancor borne by the pagans against Islam dissipated after the battle of Hunayn. The last stronghold of paganism was thus toppled down through this battle such that no formidable opponent of Islam remained in Arabia. The surviving tribes proceeded to Madeenah from every part of Arabia to put their trust in Allah and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).

In Autas

A part of the routed enemy fled to Ta’if and shut the gates of the city. The chief of Hawazin, Malik b. ‘Auf, was also with them. A detachment sent by the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) under Abu ‘Amir al-Ash’ari overtook another party of the enemy encamped at Autas, engaged it to a duel and routed it completely. (Ibn Kathir, Vol. III, p. 460) When the captives and spoils of Hunayn were brought to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), he ordered that they be brought to Ji’rrana(61) and be kept under custody there. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 459)

The captives of Hunayn numbered six thousand. The spoils included twenty-four thousand camels, forty thousand or more goats and four thousand awqiya of silver. This was the largest spoil so far to have fallen into the hands of the Muslims. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had given orders to the troops before the conquest started mandating them to shun the women, children, men hired for non-combatant purposes and the slaves from the wrath of their hands. A woman was,however, killed in the process. This incident did not elude the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) causing him to feel remorseful about it afterwards. (Ibn Kathir, Vol. III, p. 638)


[58] A Wadi near Ta’if, in the territory of Hawazin, where the battle of Hunayn was fought.
[59] According to Bukhari Abu Sufyan b. Al-Harith was holding the briddle.
[60] Refers to the companions who had the pledge of Rizwan at Hudaybia.
[61] An stopover on the road leading to north-east from Makkah.

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