What were the reasons of the battle of Trench and how did it happen?
The Battle of the Trench took place after the campaign against Banu Nadir,
who had been expelled from Madina for their treachery and who had mostly joined
their Jewish brethren in Khaybar.
In the fifth year of Hijra, a group of those Jews including Sallam ibn Abi
al-Huqayq and Huyayy ibn Akhtab, together with a number of Banu Wa�il, left
for Makka. They urged the Quraysh to make war on the Prophet Muhammad, upon
him be peace and blessings, and promised help and support.
The Jewish group then went to the tribes of Ghatafan and Qays Aylan and guaranteeing
them help also, encouraged them to fight against God�s Messenger.50
These intrigues of the Jews resulted in the formation of a great confederacy
against Islam. It consisted of the Makkan polytheists, the desert tribes of
central Arabia, the Jews previously expelled for treacheries from Madina, the
Jews (Banu Qurayza) remaining in Madina, and the hypocrites led by �Abdullah
ibn Ubayy ibn Salul. The last two constituted a treacherous network within Madina.
When God�s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, heard, through his
intelligence service, of the gathering of the allies or confederates (ahzab)
against him, and the strength of their desire to fight against him, he consulted
his Companions, as he always used to do. It was their unanimous view that they
should remain in Madina and fight from there. Salman al-Farisi suggested to
God�s Messenger that they should dig a trench around Madina.
The trench took six days of feverish work to dig. God�s Messenger had divided
them into groups of ten people and put them to a competition. It was a hard
task and time was restricted; what was more, hunger struck them all; yet all
the Companions worked enthusiastically. In order not to feel hunger, each fastened
a rock around his belly. While digging they recited:
We are those people who
Took the oath of allegiance to Muhammad;
Therefore we shall fight in the way of God
As long as we live.
By God, if God had not enabled us to,
We would have neither been guided
Nor given alms, nor performed prayers.
Send down unto us calmness and tranquility
And make our feet firm if we confront the enemy!51
The Messenger, who dug alongside them, and had fastened around his belly
two rocks, answered them with the couplet:
O God, the real life is the life of the Hereafter
So, forgive the Helpers and the Emigrants.52
Madina under threat
The allies advanced against Madina in the hope of destroying the Muslims
in a battle to be fought in an open field. However, when they faced a new strategy
of God�s Messenger, they took the first blow. Numbering around 20,000 men, they
camped near the ditch. The Madinan fighting strength was no more than 3,000,
and the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza and the Hypocrites were a source of weakness
as they were treacherously intriguing with the enemy. As stated in the verses
of the Qur�an (al-Ahzab, 33.12�20) when the Hypocrites first saw the enemy,
they were already in a defeatist mood. Not content with disloyalty themselves,
they tried to infect others, who made paltry excuses to withdraw from the fight.
If the enemy were to gain entrance, they were ready to betray the city to the
God�s Messenger�s sagacity and military genius showed themselves once more
during this war. He had kept them confined within the city and stationed them
in a way that they could safeguard their homes against possible attacks from
Banu Qurayza. It was the most critical moments of the war when Banu Qurayza
sent a man into the city to spy into the conditions of the Muslim women. However,
when this man was killed by Safiyya, the Prophet�s aunt, their hopes were frustrated.53
While the war was continuing with exchanges of arrows and stones, God�s Messenger,
contacted the leaders of Ghatafan and, offering them
peace, urged them to withdraw with their people from the war. Nu�aym ibn Mas�ud
was one of the leaders of the Allies, who before the battle, had come to Madina
to sow discord; instead, he then began to incline towards Islam. During the
battle, he secretly entered Islam and, ordered by God�s Messenger, proceeded
to stir up Banu Qurayza. Nu�aym set Banu Qurayza against the Quraysh by telling
them that they would be abandoned by the Makkans and should refuse to help unless
they were given hostages from the Quraysh. To the Quraysh, on the other hand,
he said that Banu Qurayza would not fulfil their promise to help and would attempt
to stall by asking for Qurayshi hostages to share their plight in the case of
defeat. This stratagem succeeded. Dissension among the Allies grew.54
God�s Messenger, supported by the mountain Sal behind, had ordered a point
in the trench to be made narrower. He had expected that leading horsemen of
the Quraysh would try to cross the trench through that narrow spot. It happened
as he had expected, and some of the most renowned warriors of the Quraysh attempted
to cross the trench and volunteered for single combat with Muslim fighters.
Among them were �Amr ibn �Abd Wudd, Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl, Hubayra ibn Abi Wahb,
Durar ibn al-Khattab and Nawfal ibn �Adbullah ibn al-Mughira.
Boasting of his strength and fighting ability, �Amr ibn �Abd Wudd dismounted
from his horse in the face of �Ali, who was ordered by the Messenger to fight
against �Amr. �Amr advanced towards �Ali with his sword drawn. He brought his
sword quickly against him but he got his sword caught in the shield of �Ali.
�Ali, in return, struck a fierce blow against �Amr and the dust rose up around
them. Then the words, Allahu akbar � God is the Greatest - were heard: �Ali
had killed his opponent.55
Dirar, Hubayra and Nawfal were also killed by �Ali.56 The attempts of other
horsemen or generals of the Quraysh to cross the trench were all brought to
The siege lasted 27 days. It caused the Muslims much suffering, from hunger,
cold, an unceasing shower of arrows and stones, and attempts and concentrated
assaults to cross the trench, and betrayals and intrigues within the city. The
Qur�an describes this situation as follows:
When they come against you from above you and from below you, and when your
eyes swerved and your hearts reached your throats, while you thought thoughts
about God; there it was that the believers were tried, and shaken most mightily.
And when the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is sickness, said, �God and
His Messenger promised us only delusion.� And when a party of them said, �O
people of Yathrib, there is no abiding here for you, therefore return!� And
a party of them were asking leave of the Prophet, saying, �Our houses are exposed�;
yet they were not exposed; they desired only to flee. (al-Ahzab, 33. 10-13)
After a close investment of four weeks, during which the enemy were disheartened
by their ill success and the believers proved their steadfastness and loyalty,
there was a piercing blast of the cold east wind. The enemy�s tents were torn
up, their fires were extinguished, the sand and rain beat in their faces, and
they were terrified by the portents against them. They had already well nigh
fallen out among themselves. Hudayfa al-Yamani, who was sent by God�s Messenger
to spy on the movements of the enemy, heard Abu Sufyan�s shouting: �Come on,
we are returning!�57 The Muslims were victorious by God�s help; there were hidden
forces � the Angels � that helped them:
O believers, remember God�s blessing upon you when hosts came against you,
and we loosed against them a wind, and hosts you saw not; and God sees the things
you do. (al-Ahzab, 33.9)
The predictions of the Messenger
While digging the ditch, the Companions had been unable to break a huge rock
and referred the matter to God�s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
The Messenger struck the rock with the pickaxe in his hand. In the light of
the sparks caused by the blow, he predicted: I have been given the keys to the
Kingdom of Persia; my Community will conquer it. He struck the rock a second
time and, again in the light of the sparks caused by the blow, declared: God
is the Greatest. I have been given the keys to the Empire of Byzantium. My Community
will conquer it.58
The Battle of the Trench was the last attempt of the Quraysh to destroy Islam
and the Muslims. Following their withdrawal in defeat and humiliation, God�s
Messenger declared: From this moment we will march upon them; they will no longer
be able to raid us.59
Marching upon the Banu Qurayza
When the Allies were routed and turned their backs in flight from the Muslims,
God�s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, turned his attention to Banu
Qurayza. They had betrayed their agreement with God�s Messenger and been allied
with the Quraysh against the Muslims. They had also given asylum to the leaders
of Banu Nadir, like Huyay ibn Akhtab, who had been expelled from Madina, and
never refrained from conspiracies against the Muslims.
No sooner had God�s Messenger arrived home from the Battle of the Trench
than Archangel Gabriel came and said to him: �I have not taken off my coat of
mail, and I am going upon Banu Qurayza�.60
God�s Messenger ordered his Companions to march upon Banu Qurayza and had
his tent pitched opposite their fortresses. If Banu Qurayza had asked the Messenger
for forgiveness, he would have forgiven them, but they preferred resistance.
The Messenger remained besieging Banu Qurayza for twenty-five days. At last
they asked the Messenger for surrender terms, agreeing that they should submit
to the judgment of Sa�d ibn Mu�adh, who decreed the sentence according to the
Torah. This was the end of the conspiracies of Banu Qurayza, as well as the
Jewish presence in Madina.61
Sa�d ibn Mu�adh was among the leaders of the Helpers. He had been wounded
in the Battle of the Trench and prayed to God: �O God! If I am able to fight
once more beside God�s Messenger, make me live. Otherwise, I am ready to die�.
So, he died a martyr shortly after the Jewish conspiracies ended.62
50. I. Hisham, 3.225�6; Waqidi, 441�3.
51. Bukhari, �Manaqib al-Ansar,� 9, �Maghazi,� 29; Muslim, �Jihad,� 123�5.
52. Bukhari, �Manaqib,� 9; Muslim, �Jihad,� 127.
53. I. Hisham, 3.230; I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 4.116.
54. I. Hisham, 3.239.
55. I. Hisham, 3.240�2.
56. I. Hisham, 3.235�6.
57. I. Kathir, 4.123.
58. I. Hisham, 3.243.
59. Bukhari, �Maghazi,� 29; I. Hanbal, 4.262.
60. Bukhari, �Maghazi,� 30.
61. I. Hisham, 3.249�51.
62. I. Hisham, 3.238, 262; I. Sa�d, 3. 423�4; Tabari, Tarikh, 3.49.