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The Battle of the Trench (Al-Ahzaab)


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4. The Muslims' firm and desperate resolve in defending their city. This was evidently shown clearly when the masters of Aus and Khazraj refused to pay a tax from the fruit produce of Madeenah to Ghatfan. This made the Ghatfani chiefs realize the seriousness of the anticipated battle and probably caused them to reconsider their position.

5. The untimely upheaval of the battle on the part of the pagans. It was a severe winter and they were not accustomed to a bitter cold weather. They could not maintain the provisions for their huge army. Their tent encampment in the open deprived them from the warmth of their built homes. Winds often uprooted their tents and extinguished their fires. This depressed them greatly. Their decision to withdraw was made after a stressful period brought about by wanton winds which made them think they were going to die without actually fighting.

6. The role played by Nuaym ibn Masood (radiallahu 'anhu) in the psychological war which he mounted against the enemy camp in a clever manner unequalled in history even by current and highly experienced intelligence services. He, had single-handedly, sown dissension throughout the ranks of the allies and weakened their trust among each group. This led to their decision of refraining from fighting as an allied force which could have swayed the outcome in their favor.

The Jews later followed this technique with great success from the Muslims. The Jew Abdallah ibn Saba' started to employ such Muslim strategy in the sedition which accompanied the assassination of the third caliph Othman ibn Affan (radiallahu 'anhu) and the battle of the Camel, which was carried over by the Jews up to the present. However, we do not find a similar occurrence in the history of Muslims. (See A.R. Armush, Al Fitna wa Waqaat al Jamal ("The Sedition and the Battle of the Camel"), ed. 5, Dar al Nafa’es.)

An assessment of the battle points out to the importance of fortifying the internal front of the Islamic community. It further stresses the importance of being alert to enemy groupings which are brought down by fear at the perception a stable Islamic state and revved up by hatred when the opportunity occurs in times of war.

This is why we find that the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) immediately banished the Quraydha Jews at the end of the siege and before disbanding the armed forces.

[11] Khandaq, as the trench is called is the Arabisized form of the Persian Khandak and Kandak.

[12] The trench lay in the north of the city, its eastern end began at harrata Waqim and extended up to valley of Bathan where the basalt plain of the west begins ‘(Abdul Quddus Ansari, Athar al-Madina).

[13] Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. II, p. 448. It was a custom among the Arabs that when they felt unbearable pangs of hunger, they used to tie a slab of rock on their bellies in order to allay the uneasy sensation and to be able to do their work.

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