The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

Main Index
Chapter 4: The Battle of the Ditch

 Part I: In the Time of the Prophet (SAWS)

 

Page: 4

After Uhud the Quraish had accepted the loss of trade with Syria as inevitable. Since the Muslims remained in power at Madinah, the coastal route to Syria could not be used by the Makkans. So the Makkans increased their trade with Iraq, Bahrain and the Yemen, and thus more or less made up for the loss which they had suffered in the stoppage of their trade with Syria. As a result of the conference with the Jewish delegation, however, Abu Sufyan became more conscious of the danger to the Meccan trade by the further spread of Islam. If the Muslims reached Yamamah, the Quraish trade would have to be confined to the Yemen, for the routes to Iraq and Bahrain would then be in Muslim hands. And this further curtailment of their trade would be an economic blow which the Quraish could never survive. Abu Sufyan had also been needled a great deal by Safwan bin Umayyah for his lack of spirit in the last expedition. Both these factors combined to make Abu Sufyan determined and zealous to take out another expedition to Madinah.

Preparations for the expedition were begun. Tribal contingents began to concentrate in early February 627. The Quraish provided the largest force, consisting of 4,000 men, 300 horses and 1,500 camels. Next came the Ghatfan with 2,000 men under Uyaina bin Hisn, while the Bani Sulaim sent 700 warriors. The Bani Asad contributed a contingent, whose strength is not known, under Tulaiha bin Khuwailid. While the Quraish and some lesser tribes assembled at Makkah, the Ghatfan, Bani Asad and Bani Sulaim concentrated in their tribal settlements north, north?east and east of Madinah respectively, whence they would march direct to Madinah. The total strength of the force, including smaller tribes which have not been mentioned, was 10,000, and Abu Sufyan assumed over?all command of the expedition. This became known as the collection of tribes. For want of a better name, we shall call them the Allies.

On Monday, February 24, 627 (the 1st of Shawal, 5 Hijri), the Allies, converging from their separate tribal regions, arrived near Madinah and established their camps. The Quraish camped in the area of the stream junction south of the wood, west of Mount Uhud, where they had camped for the Battle of Uhud. The Ghatfan and other tribes camped at Zanab Naqnia, about 2 miles east of Mount Uhud. Having established their camps, the Allies advanced on Madinah.

Hardly had the concentration of the Allies begun when agents brought word of it to Madinah. As more and more tribal contingents gathered, the reports became increasingly alarming. Finally the Prophet received the information that 10,000 warriors bent on destroying the Muslims were marching on Madinah. There was alarm and despondency among the Muslims as this unpleasant intelligence was received. The Muslims had, of course, always been numerically inferior to their enemies. The ratio of relative strengths at Badr and Uhud had been one to three and one to four respectively, and although the number of Muslims at Madinah had now increased to 3,000 able?bodied men, many hundreds among them were Hypocrites on whom no reliance could be placed. And 10,000 seemed a terribly large figure. Never before in the history of the Hijaz had such a vast army assembled for battle.

Then came light in the form of a suggestion by Salman the Persian. He explained that when the Persian army had to fight a defensive battle against superior odds, it would dig a ditch, too wide and too deep to cross, in the way of the enemy. To the Arabs this was an unfamiliar method of warfare, but they saw its virtue and the proposal was accepted.

The Prophet ordered the digging of the ditch. Many of the Arabs who could not comprehend such tactics seemed unwilling to get down to the arduous labour of digging, and the Hypocrites as usual went about dissuading the people from taking all this trouble. But the Prophet got down to digging with his own hands, and after this no self?respecting Muslim could keep away from the task. The ditch was sited and its entire length divided among the Muslims at the scale of 40 cubits per group of 10 men. As the Muslims sweated at this backbreaking task, Hassaan bin Thabit walked about reciting his poetry and infusing fresh spirit into the Muslims. Hassaan was a poet, and perhaps the greatest poet of his day. He could extemporise verses on any subject and on any occasion, and do it so beautifully that his listeners could hardly believe that the composition was extemporaneous. He could move people to a frenzy of emotion. But if Hassaan was one of the greatest poets of his age, that is where his talents ended. To such manly pursuits as fighting, Hassaan was in no way inclined, as we shall see later.